Breathing Exercises for Asthma Management

The Latest Findings

Researchers looked at a group of asthma patients who tried different breathing techniques to see the benefits they received. The findings, which were published in a journal called Thorax, revealed that asthmatics who regularly practiced breathing exercises experienced fewer symptoms. In fact, they reduced their use of rescue inhalers by 86 percent and corticosteroids by about 50 percent.[i]

Type May Not Matter

It is also worth noting that the type of breathing exercises patients used didn't affect the results. Participants were divided into two groups: one tried daily exercises to manage asthma, while the other group used exercises to offer relief of their symptoms once they occurred. Both groups found that the techniques they used had a positive impact on reducing medication use.[ii]


As a result of these findings, researchers recommend that people with asthma practice some type of breathing exercises twice a day on an ongoing basis for best results. The regular reliance on this technique, rather than the type of breathing exercise used, seems to be the key to success. In addition, research say that asthmatics should also try performing breathing exercises to manage their symptoms when they occur before reaching for their rescue inhaler.[iii]

Popular Techniques

While these findings are recent, in fact the idea of relying on a variety of breathing techniques to manage asthma goes back several decades or more.  Several of the more popular breathing approaches used today include:

  • The Buteyko Method
  • The Papworth Method
  • The Pranayama Method
  • Strelnikova Exercises

The Details

The Buteyko Method, which started in Russia about 20 years ago, is used very widely among people of all ages and all nations who experience asthma symptoms. This method relies on a series of quick inhalations and then finishes with one long exhalation. This technique is not endorsed by all medical experts, since some prefer deeper breathing. However, many patients seem to experience relief using this method. The Papwork technique, which originated in the UK in the 1960s, takes a similar approach, relying on a series of inhalations and exhalations to relieve asthma symptoms. The method has not been well tested to determine its true effectiveness, and has also been the topic of much criticism by some researchers. Nonetheless, some people do feel it makes a difference.[iv] Two other techniques include the Pranayama Method, which has its roots in yoga practices, and the Sterelnikova exercises, which were originally developed to help singers and was later adapted for asthma patients as well.

The Bottom Line

Whatever approach feels right for you, the important thing is to be consistent and stick with it to experience the biggest benefits.


[i] C A Slader, H K Reddel, L M Spencer, E G Belousova, C L Armour, S Z Bosnic-Anticevich, F C K Thien,and C R Jenkins. Double blind randomised controlled trial of two different breathing techniques in the management of asthma. Published Online First: 3 March 2006. doi:10.1136/thx.2005.054767. Thorax 2006;61:651-656. You can access the abstract online at

[ii] Also from Thorax research listed above.

[iii] From, article on breathing techniques to manage asthma, available at

[iv] From Thorax Journal website, Editorial. Thorax 2003;58:649-650; doi:10.1136/thorax.58.8.649

Copyright © 2003 BMJ Publishing Group Ltd & British Thoracic Society. Thorax 2003;58:649-650 © 2003 BMJ Publishing Group & British Thoracic Society .You can access the info online at