People with asthma shouldn’t see their condition as a barrier to regular physical activity. In fact, appropriate exercise programs can strengthen their heart and lungs, as well as improve their overall quality of life.
In a recent review published in The Cochrane Library, researchers found that people with asthma responded in a similar way to exercise as those without the disease.
The 21 studies included 772 people age 8 years or older who had some degree of asthma. Each study included aerobic exercise—like swimming or using a treadmill—for 20 to 30 minutes a day, 2 to 3 times a week, for 6 to 16 weeks.
Overall, people with asthma tolerated exercise well, with no bad reactions or worsening of their asthma symptoms after exercise. In addition, the severity of exercise-induced asthma attacks were not worsened by exercise.
Along with this, people with asthma who exercised were able to increase their work load and cardiovascular fitness, as measured by maximum oxygen uptake. Researchers also saw some signs that exercise improved quality of life, although more research is needed.
This is certainly good news for men with asthma who may be hesitant to start a regular exercise program. Most of the studies, though, included an asthma education program along with the exercise, which could explain some of the positive benefits.
These types of education programs train people with asthma how to prevent and treat exercise-induced asthma, which includes using medications as prescribed by a doctor.