European Journal of Epidemiology

, Volume 27, Issue 6, pp 397–407 | Cite as

Effects of regular exercise on adult asthma

  • Sirpa A. M. Heikkinen
  • Reginald Quansah
  • Jouni J. K. JaakkolaEmail author
  • Maritta S. Jaakkola


Although many guidelines recommend regular exercise for adults with asthma, the empirical evidence on the effect of exercise on adult asthma has been inconsistent and there are no previous systematic reviews on this topic. To fill in this gap of knowledge, we synthesized the data on the effects of regular exercise on physical fitness, asthma control and quality of life of adult asthmatics. We performed a Medline search from 1980 through June 2011. In the systematic review we included all clinical trials that provided information on the effects of regular exercise on adult asthma. We conducted meta-analyses of maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) and forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) based on 9 studies. A total of 11 studies were included in the analyses, but only 6 of them had a non-exercising reference group of asthmatics. The meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials showed that regular exercise significantly improved VO2max. There was no obvious improvement in lung function measurements. Some individual studies showed evidence of improvement in quality of life and asthma control. Meta-analyses provided evidence that regular physical exercise improves physical fitness of adult asthmatics. The results on effects on lung function were inconclusive. There is insufficient evidence to assess the effects of exercise on asthma control and quality of life.


Asthma Exercise Lung function Maximal oxygen consumption Meta-analysis Systematic review 



Librarian Raija Heino (Oulu University Library, Finland) kindly helped us with the systematic literature search by providing her knowledge in using the Medline-database and finding the suitable search terms. This study was supported by research grants by the Foundation of the Finnish Anti-Tuberculosis Association, Väinö and Laina Kivi Foundation, Ida Montin Foundation, the Oulu University Hospital, and The Academy of Finland Grants No. 129419 (SALVE Research Program) and No. 138691.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sirpa A. M. Heikkinen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Reginald Quansah
    • 1
  • Jouni J. K. Jaakkola
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Maritta S. Jaakkola
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Center for Environmental and Respiratory Health ResearchUniversity of OuluOuluFinland
  2. 2.Respiratory Medicine Unit, Institute of Clinical MedicineUniversity of Oulu and Oulu University HospitalOuluFinland
  3. 3.Institute of Health SciencesUniversity of OuluOuluFinland

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