A STUDY led by the University of Southampton has found that breathing exercises can help asthma sufferers cope with their condition.

Researchers also discovered that information delivered digitally via a DVD was just as effective as face-to-face sessions conducted by a physiotherapist.

The results stem from a trial involving 655 adults across the UK whose quality of life had been affected by asthma.

Those who took part in specialist physiotherapy programmes reported that their condition improved over a 12-month period.

One of the paper's authors, Professor Anne Bruton, said: “Our study provides valuable evidence to show that not only can these breathing exercises be of help to people with asthma, they can also be cost-effective – with teaching by DVD much cheaper than in person.

"Many patients have concerns about taking medicines long-term, so non-drug approaches to control asthma, like these exercises, can be of particular interest.”

The research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

Professor Hywel Williams, director of NIHR’s health technology assessment programme, said: “We are delighted to have funded this study.

“The need for more research into the possible benefits of breathing exercises as a physical therapy for asthma was identified by the James Lind Alliance after patients, carers and clinicians highlighted it among their top ten questions for research into asthma.

“It's important we continue to fund research in technologies that help people manage their conditions.”

Asthma affects more than five million people across the UK and costs the NHS and social care, including disability payments, more than £1 billion each year.

In 2012 asthma resulted in at least 6.3 million primary care consultations - and 1,160 deaths.

Dr Samantha Walker, director of research & policy at the charity Asthma UK said: “Excitingly, this study shows that video can be just as effective as face-to-face support in communicating with people with asthma and encouraging them to better manage their symptoms.

“It demonstrates how important technology can be in transforming healthcare and potentially the lives of the 5.4 million people in the UK with asthma.

"We’re urging researchers and innovators to work together to develop ways to help people with asthma through digital means, whether that's through video, SMART inhalers that can monitor the effectiveness of treatment, or apps to help patients manage their symptoms.”