Effects of Physical Exercise on Lung Function in Patients With Asthma

Using asthma inhaler. Woman using her inhaler to treat an asthma attack. Asthma is a condition in which the small airways (bronchioles) in the lungs constrict, making it difficult to breathe. This causes wheezing, coughing and breathlessness. The inhaler is an aerosol pump, which releases bronchodilator drugs that widen the airways. Asthma attacks can be brought on by exercise, allergic reactions and cold weather. Asthma usually develops during childhood, and generally improves as the patient matures.
A systematic review examined the effects of physical exercise on asthma patients with respect to lung function and quality of life.

Physical exercise can significantly improve symptoms and quality of life in patients with asthma, researchers reported in the Journal of Asthma and Allergy.

The investigators conducted a meta-analysis regarding the effects of physical exercise in patients with asthma, the intervention effects of different exercises on the ratio of forced expiratory volume in the first second percent predicted (FEV1PP) and quality of life.

A literature search of 8 Chinese and English databases through November 1, 2021, yielded 18 articles on randomized controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating the symptom indicators of patients with asthma. Altogether, the RCTs had 530 patients in the experimental group and 491 participants in the control group.

The main outcome measures were pulmonary function index (the ratio of FEV1 to normal predicted value) and total scores on the Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire and Pediatric Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire.

For the meta-analysis regarding the effects of physical exercise on lung function in patients with asthma, 16 articles (18 studies) with FEV1PP indicators were included. High heterogeneity was observed in each study, so the random effect model was used for analysis. The combined effect was mean difference (MD)=4.81 (95% CI, 1.57-8.05; P <.05), suggesting that physical exercise intervention could significantly improve patients’ pulmonary function.

Regarding the effects of physical exercise on quality of life, 9 articles with high heterogeneity were included in the meta-analysis. The combined effect was MD=0.84 (95% CI, −0.29-1.97; P >.05), indicating that physical exercise could improve the quality of life in patients with asthma, although statistical significance was not observed.

Subgroup analyses showed that aerobic exercise had a significantly greater effect on FEV1PP compared with combined exercise and free-choice exercise, and the source of heterogeneity among the studies was most likely breathing exercise or an intervention duration at least 60 minutes.

Among several study limitations, the analysis focused only on pulmonary function FEV1PP and quality of life scores. Also, the lack of blinding may have affected the results.

“Current evidence from the included literature suggests that physical exercise interventions positively improve lung function FEV1PP and quality of life scores in asthma patients,” the study authors concluded. “Different types of exercise have different effects on patients with asthma as well. Exercises that contain respiratory training and aerobic exercise have a greater effect on FEV1PP. These interventions may serve as a method that is cost-effective and easy to have feasible adjunctive therapy.”


Zhu Q, Zhu J, Wang X, Xu Q. A meta analysis of physical exercise on improving lung function and quality of life among asthma patients. J Asthma Allergy. Published online July 13, 2022. doi:10.2147/JAA.S369811