Children with asthma commonly develop wheezing or cough after exertion. Exercise-induced asthma is a significant problem for many children and may hamper their physical fitness. Some children will avoid exertion because it brings on symptoms, further reducing their stamina, endurance, and fitness.
A review of 29 studies showed that a physical training program improves exercise-induced asthma symptoms. A wide range of exercise training programs in these studies included swimming, running, aerobics, strength and interval exercises, and cycling.
Improvement occurred especially in the Peak Expiratory Flow (PEF), which measures the speed of expiration. PEF measures the degree of resistance to air flow or constriction is present in the airways. PEF is measured with a simple handheld device.
The number of asthma attacks and days of wheezing also improved in children who participated in physical training programs.
This review of studies showed that successful physical training programs that improved asthma symptoms were characterized by 4 components.
1. Intensity of training is more important than the type of exercise. Children should have an individualized training program with an intensity at their personal breathing threshold.
2. Asthma symptoms during the training should be well controlled with medication.
3. A minimum amount of training is 120 minutes/week, divided into at least 2 sessions per week.
4. A training program should consist of at least 3 months duration.
Wanrooij V, Willeboordse M, Dompeling E, Van de Kan K. Exercise training in children with asthma: a systematic review. British Journal of Sports Medicine. Online First, published on April 4, 2013 as 10.1136/bjsports-2012-091347