UMaine Study: Hearty Exercise a Good Fit for Children with Asthma

Children with asthma can benefit from cardiovascular exercise, according to a study by University of Maine researchers.

In fact, after students ran increasingly faster 20-meter (65.6 foot) sprints for more than a year, children with the chronic lung disease performed as well as youth without breathing difficulties, says Stephen Butterfield, UMaine professor of physical education and kinesiology.

Butterfield and fellow researchers utilized the Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run (PACER) with 809 students (103 had mild-moderate asthma) in grades 4–8. Five times during a 15-month period, they measured the students’ cardiovascular performance when they ran 20 meters at progressively faster intervals.

“Children with asthma increased their performance on the PACER at a rate more than double that of children without asthma,” researchers wrote. “By the end of the study (month 15), performances of both groups were essentially equal. Overall, results of this study strengthen the case for cardiovascular activity for children with well-managed asthma.”

As the 9–14-year-old children with asthma developed effective pacing strategies, they likely gained confidence in their cardiovascular capabilities and the PACER is an effective tool with which to shape these capabilities, Butterfield says.

People can build cardiovascular endurance by participating in physical activities, including running, swimming, bicycling, cross-country skiing, for sustained periods of time while their hearts, lungs and muscles work overtime.

“It (cardiovascular endurance) is an essential component of health-related physical fitness,” says Butterfield. “It is clear that educators and health-care providers should counsel children with asthma, and their parents, about the benefits of cardiovascular exercise and sports with a cardiovascular component.”

UMaine researchers Craig Mason, Shihfen Tu and Robert Lehnhard, as well as MaryEllen Schaper of Bonny Eagle High School, took part in the study. Results were published in the April edition of Perceptual & Motor Skills, an independent, peer-reviewed, bimonthly journal.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777