By training your lung strength and endurance, you can reduce your asthma symptoms and decrease your reliance on medications. With 8% of Olympians having asthma, clearly it doesn’t have to stop you from doing the things you love. In this article we look at various training methods for improving the lung performance of asthma sufferers.
Respiratory Resistance Training / Inspiratory Muscle Training
This study was done on 22 patients with mild asthma who use an inhaler on average 1 puff per day or more. The participants trained with a Threshold Inspiratory Muscle Trainer (pictured below). Training was done for 30 minutes per day, 6 times per week for 3 months. Resistance started low and slowly increased each training session.
A similar training product available to the public is the Power Lung for around $100. There are 4 different models with different ranges of resistance levels – AireStream, BreatheAir, Trainer, Sport. The AireStream model is for people who don’t exercise and the Sport model is for elite athletes. The other models come in between.
So let’s get to the results. Pictured below is the change in PImax (maximal inspiratory pressure), a measure of inhalation lung strength. Every single participant improved their PImax after the 3 months of training, with the average improvement being about 26%. That is a strong result. But how exactly does that effect your quality of life?
Pictured below is the Borg Scale score of perceived difficulty in breathing when a certain level of resistance is applied. Perceived difficulty in breathing was reduced by roughly 20-25% at all resistance levels. In addition to this, medication usage decreased significantly after training. So overall, this type of training makes your lungs stronger and more effective.
Reducing Asthma Symptoms
The training method outlined above can improve many aspects of your asthma. Another study using the same training system, for 30 minutes per day, 5 times per week, for 6 months resulted in:
- Reduced Morning Chest Tightness
- Reduced Daytime Asthma
- Reduced Inhaler Usage
- Reduced Hospital Days Due to Asthma
- Reduced Sick-Leave Days Due to Asthma
- 5 out of 15 patients were able to completely stop taking asthma medication.
So the question is: is it worth training 30 minutes per day for reduced asthma symptoms, potentially stopping your medication requirements entirely after several months of training.
Another study done on patients with moderate asthma showed regular improvements (reductions in medicine usage) every single month for 5 months (pictured below), which is when the study stopped. In total, medicine intake was reduced by about 40% after the 5 months of training.
This suggests that your improvements will continue for as long as you keep increasing the resistance, so it is important to have a variable resistance training tool. For example, if you bought the Power Lung BreatheAir, it might take you 5 months of constant improvement to reach the maximum resistance level. After you have reached the maximum resistance level though, your lungs are strong enough that you need to upgrade to the Power Lung Trainer model to continue making further progress at the same pace.
I wish you well in reducing your asthma symptoms, and living a fuller life. I also hope that by seeing the strong evidence behind the training, that you will have the motivation to do it yourself too.
- http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120731094613.htm [↩]
- Specific Inspiratory Muscle Training in Patients With Mild Asthma With High Consumption of Inhaled β2-Agonists. Paltiel Weiner, MD; Noa Berar-Yanay, MD; Avi Davidovich, MD; Rasmi Magadle, MD; Margalit Weiner, PhD [↩]
- Inspiratory muscle training in patients with bronchial asthma. P Weiner; Y Azgad; R Ganam; M Weiner [↩]
- Influence of Gender and Inspiratory Muscle Training on the Perception of Dyspnea in Patients With Asthma. Paltiel Weiner, MD; Rasmi Magadle, MD; Fareed Massarwa, MD; Marinella Beckerman, MD; and Noah Berar-Yanay, MD [↩]