Smart Tech 'Could Boost Physical Activity in People with Asthma'

Peter Russell

January 07, 2022

UK researchers have called for more research into how mobile apps, smart watches, and other digital interventions could help people with asthma to increase their physical activity and improve their quality of life.

A study, published in the  Journal of Health Psychology , examined whether interventions, including aerobic and strength resistance training, improved asthma symptoms, and which interventions were most likely to aid pulmonary rehabilitation.

Research has found that exercising for people with severe asthma can improve their condition .

A 2018 investigation in  The Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology  concluded that higher levels of physical activity were associated with better measures of lung function, disease control, health status, and use of healthcare resources.

Andrew Wilson, a clinical professor at the University of East Anglia's Norwich Medical School, and study co-author, said: "Being physically active is widely recommended for people with asthma. Doing more than 150 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous physical activity has extensive benefits, including improved lung function and asthma control.

"But research has shown that people living with asthma engage in less physical activity and are more sedentary than people without asthma."

Review of Global Evidence

The researchers looked at 25 separate international studies involving 1849 participants with asthma, to assess whether their symptoms and quality of life were changed due to various interventions including behaviour change techniques.

The number of participants in each study ranged from 10 to 330. Asthma severity varied across studies, from mild/moderate to moderate/severe or partially controlled to uncontrolled, with only two studies not reporting asthma severity in participants.

Interventions reviewed included aerobic exercises, strength and resistance training, yoga, walking, high-intensity interval training, indoor circuit training, and aquatic training.

Ten of the studies, comprising 786 of the participants, reported significant improvements in all the relevant behavioural or health outcomes studied and were considered effective.

Does Smart Technology Have a Role to Play?

However, the researchers pointed out that apart from one study, none of those they reviewed assessed digital interventions.

They argued that video appointments, smart watches, and mobile apps could offer patients tailored interventions at a convenient time and place, and remove some of the barriers to physical activity, lessening the need for travel, and enabling patients to carry out home-based programmes.

Co-author Leanne Tyson, a postgraduate researcher at Norwich Medical School, said: "This is important now – more than ever – as patients have not been able to attend face-to-face support during the COVID-19 pandemic, and services will likely become overwhelmed.

"Therefore, alternative interventions and methods of delivery need to be considered."

Good-quality, randomised trials of digital solutions were needed to understand their effectiveness for people with asthma, the researchers said.

The study was funded by the Asthma UK Centre For Applied Research and the University of East Anglia.

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