Asthma – how it affects breathing

Asthma is a long-term breathing condition that affects the airways. These are the small tubes that transport air in and out of the lungs. It’s these tubes that become inflamed when they come into contact with something that ‘irritates’ them. Consequently, the airways become narrower. And it’s for this reason that people with asthma feel breathless and wheezy. But these symptoms will vary in severity from person to person.

What causes asthma

In the general population, asthma affects approximately 235 million people. And here in the UK, one in every 12 adults is receiving treatment for it.

Asthma tends to run in families, so genetic predisposition is one risk factor. Another factor is environmental. For instance, exposure to particles that may irritate the airways or give rise to an allergic reaction. Such irritants may include tobacco smoke, house dust mites, pet dander, pollen or air pollution.

In addition to genetic predisposition and environmental irritants, there are also other triggers. These can include physical exercise and cold air. So, it’s no surprise to discover that exercise-induced asthma (EIA) is the most common medical issue among winter Olympic athletes. In fact, almost 50% of cross-country skiers in the 2018 Winter Olympics have EIA. But it isn’t only the cross-country skiers who’re suffering. Short-track speed skaters (43%), figure skaters (21%) and ice hockey player (15%) also suffer.

What is EIA

Exercise-induced asthma (EIA) is a condition where exercise itself becomes the trigger for an asthma event. Symptoms will surface only while exercising, or immediately following exercise. And the symptoms feel worst of all after exercise and then start to gradually improve. Treatment for EIA is the same, with long-term medicines that are taken daily. But there is also a natural treatment that is drug-free that can be used alongside medication. And that is Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT).

Natural asthma treatment without drugs

Data exists from five randomised controlled trials that are unanimously supportive of the use of IMT with POWERbreathe in the management of asthma. In fact, the POWERbreathe Medic is clinically proven by a wealth of research, as well as, the first non-pharmacological treatment for respiratory disease and the only product of its kind on the drug tariff. It is a non-invasive treatment that is drug-free, with no side effects or drug interactions.

POWERbreathe IMT is not suitable for patients with certain conditions so please first consult your specialist respiratory health doctor.

How asthma affects exercise

Breathlessness is a common feature of exercise. Shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing are also symptoms of asthma. So, imagine being an Olympic athlete performing high-intensity training above your lactate threshold. Then imagine being a winter Olympic athlete, with asthma. Breathing moves out of its comfort zone and increases steeply. And with the breathing muscles weakening and tiring, breathing feels harder still. It would be beneficial therefore to improve the state of the inspiratory muscles, mainly the diaphragm and intercostal.

It is possible to exercise specifically the inspiratory muscles with an inspiratory muscle training (IMT) device, such as POWERbreathe IMT. Such a device provides the inspiratory muscles with a resistance to breathe in against. This resistance training makes the inspiratory muscles work harder, improving breathing strength and stamina and reducing breathing fatigue.

What exercise helps asthma

Any form of exercise is good for you and will help keep heart and lungs healthy. In fact, many well-known, world-class athletes have this condition, such as runner Paula Radcliffe and cyclist Laura Trott.

If your symptoms are well managed, and your GP gives the go-ahead, then there’s no reason to limit your choice of exercise.

Practical tips for exercising with asthma

  • Warm-up first, including an inspiratory muscle warm-up with an IMT device
  • Make sure you have your inhaler with you
  • Ensure people around you know that you have asthma
  • If you feel your symptoms coming on during exercise, take your reliever inhaler and wait until symptoms subside

POWERbreathe IMT is Beneficial for Patients with Asthma

POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training is clinically proven to be beneficial for patients with asthma.

POWERbreathe Medic IMT available for prescription in the UK

After 20 months of rigorous assessment, the POWERbreathe Medic IMT device was made available in the UK for prescription in the National Health Service (NHS) Drug Tariff: PIP 232-1040. It found that the POWERbreathe Medic offers people with asthma a drug-free and clinically-proven method to reduce symptoms and put them in control of their asthma.

POWERbreathe Medic IMT rigorously assessed

Although the role of IMT in the management of asthma has been less widely studied than in COPD, data exists from five randomised controlled trials that are unanimously supportive of IMT in the management of asthma.

Asthma patients benefit from POWERbreathe Medic IMT

After as little as 3 weeks’ POWERbreathe training, patients experience a reduction in dyspnoea, the medical term for breathlessness or shortness of breath, as well as improvements in quality of life. Most striking however are the observations that longer-term IMT (6 months) reduces absence from school/work (by ~95%), use of healthcare resources (by ~75%), and the consumption of medication (by ~79%).

The five randomised controlled clinical trials in support of POWERbreathe IMT

  1. Inspiratory muscle training improves lung function and reduces exertional dyspnoea in mild/moderate asthmatics – McConnell, A. K., M. P. Caine, et al. (1998). Clinical Science 95(2): 4P.
  2. Inspiratory muscle training in patients with bronchial asthma 
  3. Specific inspiratory muscle training in patients with mild asthma with high consumption of inhaled beta(2)-agonists
  4. The relationship among inspiratory muscle strength, the perception of dyspnea and inhaled beta2-agonist use in patients with asthma
  5. Influence of gender and inspiratory muscle training on the perception of dyspnea in patients with asthma

Can You Have Asthma And Still Be An Elite Athlete?

This review published in the European Respiratory Society’s June issue of Breathe aims to inform respiratory physicians of the relevant components of the World Anti-Doping Code and to indicate some of the pitfalls that can arise and how to negotiate them so as not to cause problems for their athlete patients with asthma. People with asthma have generally been advised to undertake some form of physical activity to improve their health and fitness and although many asthma patients experience exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB), some have gone on to achieve great sporting success and become world and Olympic champions. In fact asthma and asthma/airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR) are the most common medical conditions encountered among summer and winter Olympic athletes, affecting between 7%-8% of them. The prevalence of asthma/AHR is principally identified in sports that require endurance training, including triathlon (25.7% of athletes at the Beijing 2008 games), cycling (17.3% at the Beijing 2008 games), cross country skiing (16.9% at the Torino 2006 games) and speed skating (14.9% at the Torino 2006 games). Swimmers had one of the highest prevalence of inhaled β2-agonist (IBA) use at the five Summer Olympic Games from 1996 to 2008. The review therefore suggests that it seems a reasonable proposition that asthma/AHR may be an occupational hazard for many endurance trained athletes and “we should be devoting more attention endeavouring to prevent or reduce this outcome.” POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) offers athletes with asthma a drug-free, clinically-proven method of reducing their symptoms and putting them in control of their asthma. In this research published in Chest, Inspiratory muscle training in patients with bronchial asthma, long-term inspiratory muscle training was shown to reduce absence from school/work (by ~95%); reduce use of healthcare resources (by ~75%); and reduce the consumption of medication (by ~79%). In addition to helping athletes reduce their asthma symptoms, POWERbreathe IMT has been shown to improve sports performance by increasing breathing strength and stamina and reducing whole body effort and fatigue.

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A Modified Breathing Exercise Program For Asthma Is Easy To Perform And Effective

Published online (June 2016) is this new study in the Journal of Asthma, A modified breathing exercise program for asthma is easy to perform and effective. The study evaluated a simple, modified breathing exercise program investigating how easy it was to perform and how effective it was as an adjunctive therapy. The program incorporated three different breathing exercises (yoga pranayama techniques, diaphragmatic breathing and pursed lip breathing), each of which was taught to the 74 subjects. Conclusion: “A simple program of breathing exercises was found to be effective and could be completed in less than 10 minutes per day. Furthermore, there was a statistically significant improvement in Asthma Control Test (ACT) scores post-exercise.” One of the exercises, diaphragmatic breathing, can be performed easily in the home without tuition by using POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training devices. (Please check with your healthcare provider first.) The scientifically proven training regimen is just 30 breaths twice a day which takes about 5 minutes. POWERbreathe exercises the muscles used to breathe in, primarily the diaphragm and intercostal muscles. It uses the principles of resistance training to exercise these inspiratory muscles by making you breathe in through the device against an adjustable variable ‘load’. It’s like ‘dumbbells for your diaphragm’, and the more you use it the stronger your breathing muscles become; the stronger they become the more you increase the load, improving your ability to take a deeper, more satisfying breath. This training not only makes your breathing muscles stronger but it also improves their stamina and reduces fatigue, improving quality of life in those with breathing problems such as asthma and COPD, and improving performance in those who’re physically active.

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Inspiratory Muscle Training And Respiratory Exercises In Children With Asthma

“The aim of the present study was to evaluate the effects that inspiratory muscle training (IMT) and respiratory exercises have on muscle strength, peak expiratory flow (PEF) and severity variables in children with asthma.”


“Programs involving IMT and respiratory exercises can increase mechanical efficiency of the respiratory muscles, as well as improving PEF and severity variables.”

Read Inspiratory muscle training and respiratory exercises in children with asthma >

Influence of Gender and Inspiratory Muscle Training on the Perception of Dyspnea in Patients With Asthma

“Men and women respond differently to asthma. Maximal inspiratory mouth pressure (PImax), ?2-agonist consumption, and perception of dyspnea (POD) were measured in 22 women and 22 men with mild persistent-to- moderate asthma. Next, the women were randomized into two groups: those who received inspiratory muscle training and those who received sham training. The training ended when the PImax of the training group was equal to that of the male subjects. POD was then measured once again.”


“Our study shows that the inspiratory muscles in women could be trained within 20 weeks to reach the same strength as in their male counterparts. This increase in inspiratory muscle strength completely concealed the gender differences in POD and ?2 -agonist consumption, suggesting that the gender differential in maximal inspiratory muscle strength is responsible for the fact that women are more symptomatic than men. However, other possibilities for the gender differences could not be negated in our study, and further investigations are needed to completely clarify the issue.”

Read Influence of Gender and Inspiratory Muscle Training on the Perception of Dyspnea in Patients With Asthma >

The Relationship Among Inspiratory Muscle Strength, The Perception Of Dyspnea And Inhaled Beta2-Agonist Use In Patients With Asthma

“It is well documented that the perception of dyspnea (POD), subjectively reported by patients, is related to the activity and strength of the inspiratory muscles, and influences the use of ‘as needed’ beta2-agonists. This study investigated the relationship among the increase in inspiratory muscle strength after specific inspiratory muscle training, beta2-agonist consumption and the POD in patients with persistent, mild to moderate asthma.”


“In patients with mild to moderate, persistent asthma, there is a correlation between the POD and the mean daily beta2-agonist consumption. When the inspiratory muscles are strengthened, there is a significant decrease in the POD and in beta2-agonist consumption.”

Read The relationship among inspiratory muscle strength, the perception of dyspnea and inhaled beta2-agonist use in patients with asthma >

Specific IMT In Patients With Mild Asthma With High Consumption Of Inhaled Beta2-Agonists

“It has been known for many years that there are variations between asthmatic patients in terms of their perception of breathlessness during airway obstruction. This study investigated the relationship between 2-agonist consumption and the score of perception of dyspnea, in mild asthmatics, and the relationship between the effect of specific inspiratory muscle training (SIMT) on the score of perception of dyspnea and ?2-agonist consumption in ‘high perceivers’.”


“Patients with mild asthma, who have a high ?2-agonist consumption, have a higher perception of dyspnea than those with normal consumption. In addition, specific inspiratory muscle training was associated with a decrease in perception of dyspnea and a decrease in ?2-agonist consumption.”

Read Specific inspiratory muscle training in patients with mild asthma with high consumption of inhaled beta(2)-agonists >

Inspiratory Muscle Training In Patients With Bronchial Asthma

“In patients with asthma, the respiratory muscles have to overcome the increased resistance while they become progressively disadvantaged by hyperinflation. We hypothesized that increasing respiratory muscle strength and endurance with specific inspiratory muscle training (SIMT) would result in improvement in asthma symptoms in (p<O.O5), and the number of hospital (p<O.05) and sick patients with asthma.”


“We conclude that SIMT, for six months, improves the inspiratory muscle strength and endurance, and results in improvement in asthma symptoms, hospitalizations for asthma, emergency department contact, absence from school or work, and medication consumption in patients with asthma.”

Read Inspiratory muscle training in patients with bronchial asthma >

IMT Improves Lung Function And Reduces Exertional Dyspnoea In Mild/Moderate Asthmatics

“Weiner et al. (1992) have reported improvements in lung function, asthma symptoms and reductions in usage of medication following six months of pressure threshold inspiratory muscle training (IMT). Where interventions require compliance with a programme of training, it is important that patients perceive benefits rapidly if compliance is to be maintained. This study examined the changes induced by 3 weeks of IMT in mild/moderate asthmatics.”


“Data are consistent with those of Weiner et al. (1992) and confirm their hypothesis that improvements in MIP and lung function translate into a reduction in exertional dyspnoea. In addition, the data suggest that where appropriate training regimens are used, these changes are observed within 3 weeks of commencement of IMT and lead to an increase in patients’ motivation to take exercise.”

Read Inspiratory muscle training improves lung function and reduces exertional dyspnoea in mild/moderate asthmatics >