If your child has asthma it’s only natural as a parent to worry about their physical activity, as it may cause an asthma attack or increase their asthma symptoms.
But there are many studies that show playing sport, participating in physical activity and maintaining a good fitness level is actually good for asthma sufferers. Furthermore, it can help reduce the severity and frequency of asthma symptoms.
In fact some of the World’s best known professional athletes and Olympic stars have asthma. A recent study showed that 8% of Olympic athletes from the last 5 Olympic Games had asthma.
“Being fit has improved my asthma so much. When I was at university and not doing so much running, I would really struggle for breath going uphill and so on. That just doesn’t happen when I’m looking after my fitness.”
Jo Pavey – 5 Time British Olympic Long Distance Runner
So it’s clear that if asthma is managed properly and you follow the guidelines in this article your child will not only be able to enjoy sports and other physical activity just like any other child, but they can also improve their asthma condition.
So now let’s take a quick look at…
- How exercise benefits children with asthma
- How to manage asthma before, during and after activity
- What to look out for when exercising
How Exercise Benefits Children with Asthma
There are a number of benefits associated with physical activity for your child, these include:
- Improved bone and muscle strength
- More confidence and discipline
- Improved social and communication skills
- Making new friends
But for children with asthma it can be even more important that they get regular exercise and participate in sports or physical activity.
Improve Lung Performance:
Playing sports improves fitness, stamina and lung capacity, which is very important for children with asthma. When they have a better base level of fitness, everyday tasks become less strenuous and therefore lessens the severity and frequency of asthma symptoms.
Also, as your child gets comfortable with participating in regular physical activity and increases his or her fitness, they will grow more confidence in living with asthma on a day to day basis.
Boost Immune System:
Asthma occurs because the airways of asthma sufferers are always irritated and inflamed and often become overly sensitive as a result. A common cold or other infection can often narrow airways even more causing an asthma attack.
By participating in regular activity your child will boost their immune system. This leads to less colds and infections and less likelihood of asthma symptoms.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
In recent years researchers have found a clear link between obesity and increased asthma attacks. Many doctors note that asthma patients who are also overweight find it harder to manage their symptoms and respond poorly to most asthma treatments when compared to people who are at a healthy weight.
In fact a recent study by Royal Brompton Hospital in London, which involved over 600 patients at severe asthma clinics across the UK, found that patients with a BMI higher than 30 were more likely to require the steroid prednisolone. This is used to reduce inflammation in the airways, and they also needed to resort to their inhalers more often.
So keeping your child active and at a healthy weight will improve their response to asthma treatments and reduce ongoing symptoms.
Reduce Stress and Depression
Stress in a common asthma trigger. Stress causes your child to have a shorter breath, feel anxious and even panicked. Furthermore, it can often dramatically increase asthma symptoms.
Ongoing asthma symptoms can then cause your child to suffer more anxiety and sometimes even depression. This can be the start of a negative self-fuelling cycle.
This is why exercise is so important.
When we exercise the body releases natural stress reducing chemicals called endorphins. These chemicals work to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. Even just five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects reducing stress and the likelihood of asthma symptoms.
So, maintaining a regular exercise routine will improve your child’s defence against asthma symptoms.
The next step is ensuring that you manage your child’s asthma properly to avoid any exercise induced asthma symptoms.
Managing Asthma Before, During and After Activity
Before enrolling your child in a sport it’s important to talk with your GP to ensure they’re on the right asthma medicines, are taking their inhalers the right way, and have an up to date asthma treatment plan.
It’s also a great idea to discuss the best ways to gradually ease your child into more intense physical activity.
If your child is taking the preventative treatment everyday there should be no issues when engaging in physical activity. However, as mentioned earlier, you’ll want to gradually build up the duration and intensity of activity to build your child’s fitness and confidence levels before going at 100% intensity.
Some other tips for managing asthma before during and after physical activity:
- Always have their inhaler on hand.
- Do a light warm-up before starting full intensity activity.
- If it’s very cold outside try to find an indoor activity.
- Avoid high pollen or high pollution days, or find an inside activity on these days.
- Tell coaches, teachers and supervisors about your child’s asthma condition and what they should look out for. Also show them how to use the inhaler properly if needed.
Asthma Symptoms to Look Out for When Exercising
Shortness of breath and a higher heart rate are natural side-effects of physical activity. However, it’s important that you, your child and the coaches or teachers supervising the activity know when these normal reactions to exercise become asthma symptoms and the inhaler is needed.
Take action when your child…
- Starts coughing or wheezing
- Is gasping for air, very short of breath or can’t get enough air
- Feels a tightness in their chest
- Has trouble speaking in short sentences
- In younger children take notice when they complain that their chest or tummy hurts. This could be a sign of exercise induced asthma
If you follow these guidelines and encourage your child to continually build their fitness and be disciplined with their asthma medication, they can enjoy a full active lifestyle and improve their asthma condition.
Australian Sporting Camps offer fun-filled, 3-day sports camps to introduce children into various sports in a safe, controlled environment. Over their 33 years as Australia’s leading sport camp provider they have had hundreds of kids with asthma participate on their programs.
The staff and coaching teams are also great at tailoring different drills and activities based on each child’s individual needs and fitness levels, and have experience working with kids with asthma.
Learn more about Australian Sports Camps our upcoming school holiday programs.