Researchers at the
Johns Hopkins Children's Center report that 20 percent
of children with asthma do not get enough exercise, even
though physical activities such as running and swimming
have been shown to decrease the severity of asthma
The report, published in the April issue of
Pediatrics, shows that this physical inactivity is
partly due to parents' misconceptions that exercise poses a
risk to asthmatic children.
The findings are based on the results of a telephone
survey of the parents of 137 children with asthma and those
of 106 healthy children.
According to the study, almost one-fifth of all
parents agreed with a statement that exercise is dangerous
for children with asthma. One-quarter of parents of
asthmatic children also said they were afraid that their
child would get sick if he or she exercised, and that their
child got upset with strenuous activity. Children whose
parents held such beliefs were more likely to be
The study's findings also indicate that children with
moderate or severe asthma, including those who take
asthma-controlling medications, were less likely to engage
in high levels of physical activity.
"These results are troubling," said the study's lead
author, David Lang, who led the research while a pediatric
fellow at the Children's Center. "Despite medical advances
and a better understanding of asthma, we found that beliefs
still exist that exercise is dangerous for asthmatic
children and that children with asthma should not exercise.
In reality, physical activity has important benefits for
all children, including those with asthma."
Janet Serwint, the study's senior author and a
pediatrician at the Children's Center, said, "Since we
found that parental beliefs about asthma and exercise
directly affected their children's activity level, we
believe it's critical that pediatricians address exercise
and its benefits with children and their caregivers to
achieve the goal of normal physical activity in children
The study was supported by a grant from the Thomas
Wilson Sanitarium for the Children of Baltimore City.
Lang is currently with the National Institutes of
Health. Additional study co-authors were Arlene M. Butz and
Anne K. Duggan, both of the Johns Hopkins Children's
— Jessica Collins