Short Breathing Exercise Program May Not Significantly Improve Asthma Outcome in Older Adults

A physician examining a patient's breathing
A physician examining a patient’s breathing
Researchers evaluated the effectiveness of a short multicomponent breathing exercise program for adults aged 65 years or older with persistent asthma.

Although a short breathing exercise program is acceptable for older adults with asthma, it may not produce meaningful improvements in asthma outcomes, according to authors of a study published in the Journal of Asthma.

While breathing exercises have been found to benefit patients with certain respiratory disorders, they can take a significant amount of time to complete, and their clinical benefits are largely unknown. Therefore, researchers sought to evaluate the effectiveness of a short multicomponent breathing exercise program for adults aged 65 years or older with persistent asthma.

A total of 90 patients with predominantly moderate to severe asthma were randomly assigned 1:1 into either the exercise or control groups. After in-person training at the initial visit, the 45 patients in the exercise group performed a short 3-part breathing exercise program twice per day at home for 1 month. This intervention incorporated 3 types of breathing techniques — the yoga technique pranayama, diaphragmatic breathing, and pursed lip breathing — and was developed by a multidisciplinary team of asthma and pulmonary specialists[AL1] .

The 45 patients in the control group performed 2 breaths with an incentive spirometer twice per day.

At the initial visit, patients also completed baseline questionnaires assessing demographic information, asthma control (Asthma Control Test [ACT]), and quality of life (mini-Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire [mini-AQLQ]), and underwent spirometry. After the 1-month period, the ACT, mini-AQLQ, and spirometry evaluations were repeated.

The researchers reported that patients in the intervention group found the breathing exercises to be helpful, and 87% of the patients stated they would recommend them to a friend. Both the exercise group and the control group demonstrated improvement in ACT and mini-AQLQ results, but there were no differences between groups, and forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) was lower in both groups.

The study authors concluded, “Given that the subjects in this study almost universally found breathing exercises to be subjectively beneficial, and the side effects for such interventions are minimal, these findings merit further investigation, perhaps utilizing a more intensive program in dedicated participants.”


Coulson E, Carpenter LM, Georgia TE, Baptist AP. Breathing exercises in older adults with asthma: a blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. J Asthma. Published online June 14, 2021. doi:10.1080/02770903.2021.1936015