Children with asthma should play hard in gym class and stop worrying they might have an attack that could leave them struggling to breathe, respiratory specialists are now recommending.
Physical activity by people with asthma isn’t harmful and might even be helpful to treating the condition, doctors in the field believe. A report published last year in the Cochrane Database Systems Review, a journal that reviews health-care treatments and decision making, looked at 19 previous studies of exercise and asthma and concluded that people with the respiratory condition fared well with physical activity. The studies’ results ranged from showing no difference in patients’ asthma control to an increase in the number of symptom-free days and a decrease in asthma severity.
Laboratory studies on animals with asthma also have shown that exercise appears to reduce the severity and frequency of attacks, says Timothy Craig, an immunologist and allergist at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine in Hershey, Pa. The experiments with mice found that exercise calms the activity of inflammatory proteins and peptides in airways that, when stimulated, cause an attack, he says.
“If you have good, controlled asthma, you should be able to exercise,” Dr. Craig says.
Fear of physical activity is real for many asthma patients. Exercise can spur an attack, in which the airways get inflamed and lung muscles contract, making it hard for people to catch their breath. If untreated, serious cases can lead to death.
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