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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Effect of physical training on airway inflammation in bronchial asthma: a systematic review

Smita Pakhale123*, Vanessa Luks13, Andrew Burkett13 and Lucy Turner2

Author Affiliations

1 The Ottawa Hospital, 501 Smyth Road, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 8L6, Canada

2 Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Ottawa, Canada

3 University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

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BMC Pulmonary Medicine 2013, 13:38  doi:10.1186/1471-2466-13-38

Published: 13 June 2013



The majority of the global population cannot afford existing asthma pharmacotherapy. Physical training as an airway anti-inflammatory therapy for asthma could potentially be a non-invasive, easily available, affordable, and healthy treatment modality. However, effects of physical training on airway inflammation in asthma are currently inconclusive. The main objective of this review is to summarize the effects of physical training on airway inflammation in asthmatics.


A peer reviewed search was applied to Medline, Embase, Web of Science, Cochrane, and DARE databases. We included all observational epidemiological research studies and RCTs. Studies evaluating at least one marker of airway inflammation in asthmatics after a period of physical training were selected. Data extraction was performed in a blinded fashion. We decided a priori to avoid pooling of the data in anticipation of heterogeneity of the studies, specifically heterogeneity of airway inflammatory markers studied as outcome measures.


From the initial 2635 studies; 23 studies (16 RCTs and 7 prospective cohort studies) were included. Study sizes were generally small (median sample size = 30). There was a reduction in C-reactive protein, malondialdehyde, nitric oxide, sputum cell counts and IgE in asthmatics with physical training. Mixed results were observed after training for fractional excretion of nitric oxide and bronchial hyperresponsiveness. The data was not pooled owing to significant heterogeneity between studies, and a funnel plot tests for publication bias were not performed because there were less than 10 studies for almost all outcome measures. Physical training intervention type, duration, intensity, frequency, primary outcome measures, methods of assessing outcome measures, and study designs were heterogeneous.


Due to reporting issues, lack of information and heterogeneity there was no definite conclusion; however, some findings suggest physical training may reduce airway inflammation in asthmatics.

Chronic airway inflammation; Physical exercise; Asthma therapy; Adherence; Meta-analysis