Fitness and physical activity in children with asthma

Sports Med. 2004;34(13):861-70. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200434130-00001.


Asthma remains the most common chronic disease in childhood, reportedly affecting up to 25% of children in Western urban environmental settings. There seems to be a common perception that asthmatic children have a reduced capacity for exercise. Surprisingly, there is conflicting evidence in the literature in relation to this position. In this review, we present an overview of the literature in which habitual physical activity and fitness levels, including aerobic fitness, of asthmatic and non-asthmatic children are compared. There is contradictory evidence regarding the aerobic fitness levels of asthmatic children and adolescents, and it remains unclear whether significant differences exist between asthmatic children and their non-asthmatic counterparts. There is limited information concerning the relative anaerobic fitness of asthmatic children and adolescents; however, this is also conflicting. During childhood and adolescence, asthmatic individuals seem to have physical activity levels comparable with those of the normal paediatric population. However, differences in physical activity levels may develop during the time of maturation from adolescence into adulthood. Accordingly, it is not possible to establish a definitive conclusion about the issue in either children or adults. Further research with well designed methodologies is needed in order to determine whether asthmatic children and adolescents have different aerobic fitness, anaerobic fitness and physical activity levels when compared with the normal paediatric population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Asthma*
  • Child
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Urban Population