The Truth about Asthma and Exercise
Many opportunities are available for children — from hiking to biking to playing baseball — to burn calories and keep them strong. Your child, in most instances, does not have to avoid many of these activities because of asthma.
Instead, you can help your child take steps to control asthma symptoms while letting him participate in — and not avoid — physical activities that he enjoys with his friends, teammates, and classmates. In the process, he can gain a sense of accomplishment, well-being, and increased self-esteem.
Recent research has shown that children with asthma are more likely to be overweight or obese — possibly related in part to engaging in less exercise than other children their age without asthma. Social and economic backgrounds were not seen as a factor with these differences. Ongoing research has also been looking at whether obesity can be considered a risk factor for developing asthma.
Just as asthma severity varies from child to child, the reaction of a child with asthma to exercise will vary as well — depending on the type of exercise, the vigorousness of the exercise, the season of the year, air temperature and humidity, and location of activity. Most children who have a history of asthma will show symptoms of exercise-induced asthma when engaged in various physical activities.
Oftentimes, exercise in which a child is constantly in motion — maybe running or jumping — will cause symptoms for those whose asthma is not well controlled. Sometimes, children will show symptoms only when they exercise.
The good news is that today's treatments can successfully control asthma so that your child can participate in physical activities much of the time. But as a parent, there's still more work to be done — in particular, communicating with teachers, coaches, and other instructors to help them understand what asthma is and what the needs of your child are.
It is important to work with your health care provider to develop the asthma management plan and exercise guidelines that will help your child when exercising. This plan should be shared with those instructors and coaches that your child is working with in the school or sports team settings.
At times, it may be necessary that your child have some modifications to planned exercise, such as varying the type, length, location (indoors or outdoors), or frequency of activity. But make sure your child is part of the action and not sitting behind on the bench or left in the library. The goal should be lifelong physical fitness and a better quality of life.