Yoga and mind study to relieve severe asthma

Dec 11 2018

Dr Sarah Hiles

Respiratory researchers at the University of Newcastle and Hunter Medical Research Institute are investigating how yoga and mindfulness classes can improve the quality of life for people with severe asthma.

The disease is highly debilitating for those who gain minimal relief from conventional inhaled therapies, escalating chronic risk factors associated with physical inactivity and poor mental health.

As a natural, non-pharmaceutical approach, the new study that's named after the yoga gesture NAMASTE (Novel Activity Management in severe ASthma – Tailored Exercise) aims to increase the amount of activity and movement that people with severe asthma can manage.

“Patients tell us they want to be more active, however they’re limited in what they can do because of their asthma symptoms and struggle to find activities they can engage in, particularly with friends and family,” study coordinator  Dr Sarah Hiles said.

“Several people with severe asthma have described the benefits of yoga, which is a mind-body practice that involves breathing, meditation, postures and stretches. We believe it has the potential to address many unmet needs in severe asthma, including improving activity levels, fatigue, breathlessness, strength, mental health and social connectedness and overall quality of life.”

The team has begun recruiting for a clinical trial that will compare 16 weeks of yoga and mindfulness classes with a minimal telephone-based, goal-setting control group. All participants will receive an activity tracker as they aim to increase their daily steps each day.

After finishing the yoga intervention, participants will be interviewed to get a sense of their experiences and attitudes toward the study.

“This will help us work out whether the intervention is acceptable, feasible and how we might use it in practice,” Dr Hiles explained. “We need large-scale, definitive trials on how to increase movement in people with severe asthma – this study will generate the knowledge we need to do this.

“We know that increased physical activity benefits people without asthma or with other chronic diseases, so increasing movement is an extremely important goal for severe asthma.”

Research leader Professor Vanessa McDonald added that individuals with severe asthma experience much more disabling symptoms compared to those with mild disease, and research shows that this results in less activity for people with severe asthma and poorer outcomes.

“People with severe asthma are in urgent need of new disease management approaches,” she said. “They have multiple health problems and risk factors that worsen their illness. In particular,  physically inactivity, obesity and anxiety and depression commonly coexist with severe asthma.”

Enrolments to Paola Urroz on (02) 4042 0092, Classes are starting in February at the HMRI Building with trained yoga instructors. It is free of charge.

* HMRI partners with the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.