Breathing exercises shown to be beneficial for adults with asthma

Breathing exercises shown to be beneficial for adults with asthma

Vanessa Jordan
Clinical question

How effective are breathing exercises for the management of people with asthma?

Bottom line

This review found that breathing exercises showed some probable improvements in quality of life and hyperventilation symptoms for adults with asthma. However, there were no apparent differences in asthma symptoms, as measured by the Asthma Control Questionnaire. This evidence came from studies looking at breathing exercises based on the Papworth method, Buteyko method, diaphragmatic breathing, yoga and breathing retraining exercises. Exercises were delivered either face-to-face or by audiovisual media.


Due to some methodological differences among included studies, the certainty of evidence for the measured outcomes ranged from moderate to very low. In addition, asthma severity in participants from the included studies ranged from mild to moderate, so it was not possible to assess the effects of breathing exercises on participants with severe asthma.


Breathing exercises have been widely used worldwide as a non‐pharmacological therapy to treat people with asthma. Breathing exercises aim to control the symptoms of asthma and can be performed as the Papworth method, the Buteyko breathing technique, yogic breathing, deep diaphragmatic breathing or any other similar intervention that manipulates the breathing pattern. The training of breathing usually focuses on tidal and minute volume and encourages relaxation, exercise at home, the modification of breathing patterns, nasal breathing, holding of breath, and lower rib cage and abdominal breathing.

Cochrane Systematic Review

Santino TA, Chaves GSS, Freitas DA, et al. Breathing exercises for adults with asthma. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2020, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD001277. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001277.pub4. This review contains 22 studies involving 2880 participants.