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Asthma beliefs preventing activity needlessly

Monday July 26th, 2010

Children with asthma are missing out on vital exercise, experts have warned.

Their condition means they "are being subjected to a culture of over protection", says Dr Brian Williams of the University of Dundee, UK.

Dr Williams' team looked at exercise habits among 30 children in Tayside, Scotland. These children took part in much less exercise than those without asthma. This reduced level of activity "was supported by a climate of fear among parents and teachers about what was safe and possible for the child".

The researchers found that exercise was seen as a threat to be managed rather than something beneficial. It also seemed that teachers could not distinguish between children who couldn't exercise due to asthma and those who were unmotivated.

Full results are in the British Journal of General Practice.

The researchers state that GPs and asthma nurses need to explain what is appropriate and safe in terms of exercise on a child-by-child basis, to counter the considerable misunderstanding and disagreement among children, parents, and teachers.

Dr Williams said: "Exercise improves general health status, and reduces GP consultations and medication use among children with asthma.

"Lower levels of activity reported among children with asthma were strongly influenced by parental beliefs about the child's physical capability and fears about the safety of exercising."

The journal editor adds: "There are many false limiting beliefs among these children about their asthma, some of which arise from what we as doctors have told them. Many children with asthma are missing the opportunity to build up their fitness and exercise capacity which would actually help them manage their asthma better."

Williams, B. et al. Low exercise among children with asthma: a culture of over protection? The British Journal of General Practice, Vol. 60, August 2010, pp. 578-83.

Tags: Allergies & Asthma | Child Health | Fitness | UK News

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