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How physically active and sedentary are adults with asthma?

Published online: March 3, 2018

Asthma is an obstructive airway disease that causes significant burden to individuals. Symptoms of the disease such as airflow limitation, exertional dyspnea, and poor control of symptoms are likely to detrimentally impact the amount of physical activity and sedentary time in which adults with asthma engage. Being physically inactive and engaging in excessive sedentary time are well-recognized modifiable risk factors for the development of several chronic diseases and premature mortality. Additionally, it has been suggested that people engaging in higher levels of physical activity might have a lower risk of developing asthma. Nevertheless, the prevalence of these behaviors in adults with asthma, and how they relate to different disease outcomes has not been thoroughly reviewed.

In a recently published article in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, Cordova-Rivera and colleagues systematically synthesized the literature characterizing physical activity and sedentary time in adults with asthma and evaluated the associations between these behaviors and clinical and physiological characteristics of the disease. Additionally, the authors estimated activity levels using meta-analysis of steps/day.

The authors found that physical activity in adults with asthma was lower compared to controls; a trend that was more accentuated in more severe disease, in females compared with males, and in older people with asthma compared with their younger counterparts. The level of sedentary time did not appear to differ between adults with asthma and controls, but literature on this behavior was scarce. The authors also found that higher levels of physical activity were associated with better measures of lung function, disease control, health status, and health care use. High sedentary time was associated with higher health care use, and poorer lung function, asthma control and exercise capacity. Results of the meta-analysis performed in the seven studies measuring steps/day with an accelerometer, showed a pooled mean of 8390 steps/day.

Addressing inactivity and sedentary time may be a potential nonpharmacological approach in the management of asthma. Disease severity, sex, and age should guide these approaches.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice is an official journal of the AAAAI, focusing on practical information for the practicing clinician.