Breathing exercises DO help asthma.
As the incidence of asthma continues to increase in the industrialized world and more and more people are put on long-term asthma medications that can have dangerous side effects, researchers are beginning to take a serious look to explore if breathing exercises help asthma to help control the symptoms of the disease and reduce asthma patients’ reliance on preventative and rescue medications. So far, two studies have shown hopeful, if slightly contradictory, results.
Study Number One
A study conducted at Sydney’s Woolcock Institute of Medical Research and Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital that was published in “Thorax” in August of 2006 looked at the effect of breathing exercises on asthmatics’ use of both preventative and rescue medications. Study participants undertook two different kinds of breathing exercises, the first to practice twice daily, and the second to use at the onset of asthma symptoms. The study concluded that the exercises reduced the need for preventative medication by up to 50 percent and the use of rescue inhalers by up to 86 percent. The researchers found no bias for one exercise over the other, but instead promoted the combination of both exercise techniques. The researchers did acknowledge that part of the reduction in preventative medication may have been caused by the better control of asthma symptoms by patients enrolled in the clinical study compared to the average asthma patient.
Study Number Two
A second study, published in the December 2008 edition of “Thorax,” looked at 200 adults with mild to moderately severe asthma symptoms. Half of the participants had three sessions with a physiotherapist who taught them breathing exercises while the other half were given information and advice about asthma from a nurse. One month later, both groups showed improvement in their quality of life. After six months, the group that had been taught exercises showed lower levels of anxiety and depression and better control of their asthma than the second group, but neither group showed a reduction in their need to use rescue inhalers.
The Breathing Techniques
A video that demonstrates the types of exercises that were used in both studies can be found at http://www.asthmacrc.org.au/breathing_techniques_presentation.html.