How can physical therapy help with asthma?

Asthma, a chronic respiratory condition, affects millions of people worldwide. The hallmark symptoms—wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness—can significantly impact daily life.

In this blog, we’ll explore how targeted exercises, breathing techniques, and expert guidance from physical therapists can enhance lung function, reduce symptoms, and improve overall quality of life for individuals living with asthma.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic lung condition that affects the airways, making it harder to breathe. It’s a common condition, affecting over 262 million people worldwide and 25 million people in the U.S. alone. While there’s no cure, it can be effectively managed with medication and lifestyle changes.

What happens in asthma:

  • The airways in your lungs become inflamed and swollen, producing excess mucus.
  • This narrows the airways, making it harder for air to flow in and out, leading to breathing difficulties.
  • The severity and frequency of symptoms can vary greatly from person to person.


  • Coughing, especially at night or during exercise
  • Wheezing, a whistling sound when breathing out
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Difficulty sleeping due to breathing problems

What triggers asthma?

Certain triggers can worsen asthma symptoms. These can vary but commonly include:

  • Allergies: Dust mites, pollen, mold, and pet dander are common triggers.
  • Air irritants: Smoke, pollution, and strong odors can trigger asthma.
  • Respiratory infections: Colds and flu can make asthma symptoms worse.
  • Exercise: For some people, strenuous exercise can trigger asthma.
  • Cold air: Breathing in cold air can trigger asthma symptoms for some people.
  • Emotional stress: Anxiety and other strong emotions can sometimes trigger asthma attacks.
  • Breathing Easier: How Physical Therapy Can Improve Lung Function for People with Asthma

How does physical therapy help Asthma patients?

Here’s how physical therapy tackles asthma’s challenges:

1.      Strengthening the Respiratory Muscles:

  • Physical therapists design exercises to strengthen the muscles involved in breathing. These exercises enhance lung capacity and endurance, making it easier to perform daily activities without feeling winded.
  • Techniques like diaphragmatic breathingnasal breathing, and pursed lip breathing help open airways, improve oxygen exchange, and reduce the effort required for breathing.

2.      Improving Lung Health:

  • Regular exercise decreases inflammation in the airways, even though asthma itself causes inflammation. By reducing inflammatory proteins, physical activity enhances the airways’ response to exercise.
  • As your lungs adapt to consuming oxygen during workouts, daily breathing becomes less taxing.

3.      Cardiovascular Fitness:

  • Exercise benefits overall heart health, improving blood flow and oxygen delivery.
  • Aerobic activities like brisk walking, swimming, or cycling are excellent choices for people with asthma. These brief bursts of exertion minimize the risk of triggering symptoms.

4.      Chest Physiotherapy:

  • Techniques such as chest physical therapy focus on removing thick secretions from the airways, promoting ease of breathing, and preventing infections.
  • These treatments can complement traditional asthma management.

What are exercises to improve lung function in asthma?

Regular exercise is a fantastic way to improve your overall health and well-being, and it’s especially beneficial for people with asthma. Exercise can help strengthen your lungs, improve your cardiovascular health, and manage asthma symptoms.

Here are some specific exercises that are great for improving lung function in asthma:

Breathing exercises:

  • Diaphragmatic breathing: This type of deep belly breathing engages your diaphragm, the primary muscle for breathing. It can help improve lung capacity and reduce shortness of breath.
  • Pursed-lip breathing: This technique involves slowly exhaling through pursed lips, like blowing out a candle. It can help slow down your breathing and control shortness of breath during an asthma attack.
  • Huffing: This involves forcefully exhaling through pursed lips, like fogging a mirror. It can help clear mucus from your airways and make breathing easier.

Physical activities:

  • Swimming: The warm, humid air in pools is less likely to irritate your airways, and the water provides resistance that can help strengthen your lungs.
  • Walking: This is a gentle, low-impact exercise that you can gradually increase in intensity as you get fitter. Walking is a great way to improve your cardiovascular health and lung function without triggering asthma symptoms.
  • Yoga: Yoga combines physical postures with breathing exercises, which can help improve your lung function and manage stress.
  • Tai chi: This gentle exercise combines movement with focused breathing and can help improve balance, coordination, and lung function.


Physical therapy emerges as a vital component in the comprehensive management of asthma. By focusing on strengthening respiratory muscles, improving lung health, and enhancing cardiovascular fitness, physical therapists empower individuals to breathe more freely and live life to the fullest. 

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I am a highly skilled and experienced content writer with a Doctorate in Therapy degree. With a deep understanding of the human body and a passion for health and wellness. I combines my clinical expertise and writing skills to create valuable and engaging content.

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