Exercise and Asthma in Kids

Exercise for Kids with Asthma

Asthma is a long-term lung condition that can be controlled but cannot be cured. Around 2.7 million Australians (11% of the total population, or 1 in 9 Australians) have asthma. Within the first three years of life, 16.9% of infants experience asthma or wheeze. Among non-asthmatic children aged 4 to 5 years, 4.1% will develop asthma by the seventh year of life.

Children with asthma have sensitive airways of their lungs which react to triggers causing a flare up, also known as an asthma attack. Symptoms vary from child to child but typically include breathlessness, tight feeling in their chest, wheezing or coughing. These symptoms usually occur at night, early in the morning or during/just after physical exertion.

What are the benefits of exercise?

It is important for children with asthma to participate in physical activity, as it can reduce symptoms by strengthening their heart and lungs. This in turn can improve their breathing and reduce asthma attacks – thereby enhancing quality of life.

It is important to understand the pattern of a child’s asthma (including triggers and treatment approaches) for effective symptom management. Children, parents, teachers and coaches should also be educated about the child’s asthma management plan as every child is different and will have different experiences with their asthma.

If you have any concerns about a child exercising with asthma, please get in touch with an Accredited Exercise Physiologist who can develop a suitable exercise program.

Things to remember

– The identification of triggers (such as grasses, pollens and pollution) is important. By minimising exposure to triggers and having an appropriate asthma management plan, children with asthma can participate in physical activity with reduced risk of an attack. Always ensure the child has their reliever medication readily available before exercise participation begins.

– Before the activity, children should take reliever medication up to 15 minutes before warming up or as directed by their doctor.

– Always be sure that the child is warming up prior to exercise and cooling down after exercise.

– The type of exercise and the amount of time exercising is also important. Vigorous activity for six minutes or more in cold, dry air is more likely to trigger asthma. Ensure that the child has followed guidelines for taking their reliever medication if participating in early morning activity or if training/playing at night in winter months.

Types of exercise recommended

Many great and recommended exercises for kids with asthma are yoga, walking, biking, hiking, gymnastics and swimming and they should be aiming to meet the physical activity guidelines while being active.

Parents and guardians

When beginning a new activity, ensure that your child commences at a low level and gradually increases their level of movement as they feel comfortable. Performing new activities that are too vigorous for your child’s level of fitness may cause a trigger of asthma symptoms. Know that over time, as your child becomes fitter, so do their lungs and asthma attacks will become less likely. Always have reliever medications available at all times when your child is exercising.

Read more in the Exercise for Kids eBook! Download here. 

Content provided by Exercise Right for Kids via the Kids Asthma fact sheet