In Thorax, a research news published says, in people with mild asthma, breathing techniques and exercises reduce reliever inhaler use and about halve the dose of preventer inhaler.
The researchers compared the impact of two breathing techniques on symptoms, lung function, use of medication and quality of life among 57 adults with mild asthma.
One technique focused on shallow, nasal breathing with slow exhalations, and the second technique used general upper body exercises, accompanied by relaxation.
The participants, who used a preventer inhaler and required reliever inhaler at least four times a week, were randomly assigned to one or other breathing technique.
Participants practised their breathing exercises twice a day for around 25 minutes over a period of 30 weeks. They were also encouraged to use a shorter version of their exercises in place of reliever, and to use reliever if the exercises did not work.
Use of reliever medication fell by 86% in both groups, a process which began within weeks of starting the exercises, and was maintained over eight months.
At the start of the study, participants used around three puffs of reliever each day, which fell to approximately one puff every third day by study end. Preventer dose requirements were also halved.
Quality of life scores remained unchanged in both groups, but good asthma control was maintained even though inhaler use was reduced. There were no changes in lung function or airway responsiveness in either group.
As both groups came to depend less on medication by the end of the study, despite the differences in the techniques used, the authors suggest that the processes involved were more likely to account for the results than the breathing exercises themselves.