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Report Highlights Fitness Concerns For Asthmatic Children

August 1, 2008

The authors of a new research review say children with asthma face a number of barriers to participation in physical activity, from family beliefs to school disorganization to their own misperceptions about their symptoms.

Dr. Brian Williams of the University of Dundee in Scotland and colleagues concluded that given the multiple benefits of exercise, physical activity is essential to kids with asthma, and efforts must be made to remove these barriers.

They reported in the journal BMC Family Practice Research that exercise has shown to boost aerobic fitness in asthmatic children, and may also have psychological benefits as well.

“The overwhelming majority of studies show that people with asthma can exercise safely if medicated appropriately and can significantly improve their cardiovascular fitness and quality of life by doing so,” they add.

Williams and his team undertook a review of medical literature, including 61 studies, in their analysis to investigate the level of physical activity among children with asthma.

Children and young people with asthma do tend to be less active than their peers without the disease, according to several studies. One study even found that pre-schoolers with wheezing were less active than their classmates without asthma.

Many young people with asthma didn’t think they were able to fully participate in sports and physical activities, researchers said.

Parents’ beliefs were key in helping their children to manage their asthma effectively and to be physically active, but parents could also hinder the effective management of their children’s disease.

“Many unnecessarily restricted their child’s physical activity because of lack of information or misinterpretation of advice given,” they add.

Teachers could also be part of the problem, largely because they frequently lack information on how to manage an asthma attack and thus they are overly cautious about activities children with asthma can pursue.

Also, researchers said children may sometimes mistake breathlessness during exercise with an asthma attack.

The report offered several steps to help asthmatic kids to become more active include helping children with asthma and their families to manage the condition more effectively; providing accurate information to parents, teachers and school officials; and helping children with asthma feel more able to cope with their condition.

Doctors also must work with their young asthma patients to help them understand which symptoms indicate a serious problem and which may simply be exercise related.

“Exercise-induced asthma should be regarded as a marker of poor control and a need to increase fitness rather (than) as an excuse for inactivity,” the report concluded.

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