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Exercises reduce inhaler need

For asthmatics, breathing exercises can reduce the use of inhalers.

india Updated: Jun 10, 2006 20:38 IST

For people with mild asthma, exercises that focus on shallow breathing through the nose, as well as non-specific upper body exercises, can reduce the need to use a bronchodilator inhaler, according to a new report.

Many people with asthma rely on puffs of a short-acting beta-2 agonist, such as albuterol, to relieve breathing difficulties. Also, "breathing techniques are among the most popular complementary medicine modalities used by people with asthma," the authors of the study note in the medical journal Thorax.

They found that, while the shallow breathing and upper body exercise approach were completely different, they provided similar improvements in asthma outcomes.

This suggests that the benefits "were not due to the use of a particular type of exercise, but to the process of both routine and as-required exercises that reinforce a message of relaxation and self-efficacy and provide a deferral strategy for beta-2 agonist use," write Dr. C. A. Slader, from the University of Sydney, Australia, and colleagues.

The team assessed the outcomes of 57 patients with mild asthma who were randomly assigned to perform one of the two breathing techniques twice daily for 30 weeks. After 16 weeks, an attempt was made to decrease the amount of inhaled corticosteroids the patients were taking for the long-term control of their asthma.

The breathing exercise focused on hypoventilation, breath holding after exhalation, and breathing through the nose. The upper body exercise involved shoulder rotations and arm lifts performed in sync with breathing cycles.

Neither intervention had a significant effect on quality of life, lung function, or constriction of the airways in response to asthma triggers. However, both forms of exercise training were associated with an 86 percent reduction in the use of a beta-2 agonist reliever, and a 50 percent drop in the dose of inhaled corticosteroids.

Breathing techniques may be useful for "patients with mild asthma symptoms who use a reliever frequently," Slader and colleagues conclude, "but at present there is no evidence to favor shallow breathing techniques over non-specific upper body maneuvers."