Br J Sports Med 34:162-167 doi:10.1136/bjsm.34.3.162
  • Review

Effects of physical training in asthma: a systematic review

  1. Felix S F Ram1,
  2. Stewart M Robinson2,
  3. Peter N Black1
  1. 1Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Auckland, New Zealand
  2. 2Department of Physiology, School of Medicine
  1. Correspondence to: Dr S M Robinson, Department of Physiology, School of Medicine, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand
  • Accepted 15 December 1999


Objectives—To assess the evidence for the effects of physical training on pulmonary function, symptoms, cardiopulmonary fitness, and quality of life in subjects with asthma.

Methods—A search was conducted for randomised controlled trials of subjects with asthma undertaking physical training using the Cochrane Airways Group register of controlled clinical trials, Medline, Embase, Sportdiscus, Science citation index, and Current contents index. Studies were included in the review if the subjects had asthma, were 8 years of age or older, and had undertaken physical training for at least 20 minutes per session, twice a week, for a minimum of four weeks. The eligibility of trials for inclusion in the review and the quality of the trials were independently assessed by two reviewers.

Results—Eight studies with a total of 226 subjects met the inclusion criteria for this review. Physical training had no effect on resting lung function but led to an improvement in cardiopulmonary fitness as measured by an increase in maximum oxygen uptake of 5.6 ml/kg/min (95% confidence interval 3.9 to 7.2). None of the studies measured quality of life.

Conclusions—Physical training improves cardiopulmonary fitness without changing lung function. It is not clear if the improvement in fitness translates into a reduction in symptoms or an improvement in the quality of life. There is a need for further randomised controlled trials of the effects of physical training in the management of asthma.