Adults with asthma may improve their sense of well-being and control over their disease by learning breathing exercises and incorporating these exercises into their asthma medication regimen, researchers report.

"Breathing exercises did not 'cure' asthma," Dr. Mike Thomas told Reuters Health. However, when used in addition to usual treatments, breathing exercises can improve asthma symptoms and quality of life measures for asthma patients, said Thomas, of the University of Aberdeen in the UK.

Thomas and colleagues compared the benefits of physiotherapist-supervised breathing training versus nurse-delivered asthma education in moderately impaired, but otherwise healthy, asthma patients, who were an average of 46 years old.

The investigators randomly assigned 183 patients to three sessions of physiotherapist-supervised breathing training or nurse-supervised asthma education.

Breathing sessions explained normal versus dysfunctional breathing, taught diaphragmatic and nasal breathing techniques, and encouraged participants to practice exercises for at least 10 minutes a day.

One month after all sessions were completed, Thomas' team noted similar and significant improvements in asthma quality of life scores in both groups, according to the report published in the medical journal Thorax.

After 6 months, 64 subjects in the breathing training group and 66 in the education group were still in the study. At this point, total Asthma Quality of Life Scores improved in over 90 percent of the participants who completed the breathing training compared with 64 percent of participants who completed the education intervention.

In addition, the breathing training group reported improvements in "patient-centered" measures such as feeling more in control of asthma symptoms and feeling less anxious or depressed.

These findings suggest breathing exercises may benefit patients with suboptimally controlled mild-to-moderate asthma, Thomas and colleagues surmise. They recommend using such techniques in conjunction with medically supervised asthma medication regimens.