Exercise as it relates to Disease/Effects Of Swimming Training On Children With Asthma

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What Is The Background To This Research?[edit | edit source]

Asthma is an inflammatory response that effects the bronchial tubes leading into the lungs.[1] People who have asthma can experience tightening or even a blocking effect of their airways when they come into contact with or are placed in a certain environment. The blocking and trapping of air within the bronchial tubes is called an asthma attack and can be fatal if a person does not take certain medication to combat it. The stimulus that effects asthmatics can range from a number of stimuli including exercise, smoking environments, inhaled allergens, environmental factors and others.[2] The most common stimulus among asthmatics being exercise. With one in ten Australians (just over 8% of the population) affected by asthma it wouldn’t seem that it would be deemed as a major concern. Also in the years 2008 and 2009 the Australian government spent $655 on asthma health and research. That’s only 0.9% of the total expenditure on health and disease prevention spent by the Australian government.[3] However small these statistics appear they only further increase the burden to the Australian Health budget as well as the possibility of asthma being a cause for reduced activity which can lead into other serious health issues such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes.

Where Is The Research From?[edit | edit source]

The research was orchestrated by Fitch, K.D., Morton, A.R. and Blanksby, B.A. out of The Department of Physical Education and Recreation based out of the University of Western Australia. All research and results were carried out in 1976.

What Kind Of Research Was This?[edit | edit source]

The research carried out over a period of 5 months with 46 asthmatic school children between the ages of 9 years 2 months and 16years 6 months. The asthmatic children were placed into groups A,B,C and D. They were divided by the severity of asthma characteristics formulated by McNicol and Williams (1973). There was also a control group of 10 children. Each subject who was asthmatic was given a diary 6 weeks prior to the 5 month training block and recorded medication usage and incidents of daytime and night time wheezing episodes (recorded and scored as asthma disability). Bronchial reactivity (Bronchial Hyperresponsiveness) was also assessed and recorded. All subjects had to be able to swim fifty meters and attend a suitable pool for regular training.

What Did The Research Involve?[edit | edit source]

Pre-Training[edit | edit source]

All subjects underwent a full medical and exercise history, height, weight, chest circumference and skinfolds to measure body fat percentage. Subjects also completed a three by three minute treadmill test to reach a heart rate of 170-180 beats per minute. Measured as the physical work capacity.

Swimming Program[edit | edit source]

Swimming programs were implemented by professional swimming coaches - and the instructions were to improve swimming technique and train the subjects aerobically. The program began with three sessions per week and over time the frequency and intensity was increased so that by the end of the five months the subjects were completing five one hour session per week.

Post Training Evaluation[edit | edit source]

Once the five months of training had ended the subjects were again tested for the same measurements of height, weight, chest circumference and skinfolds. These measurements were taken by the same instructors and in the same conditions as the pre-training evaluation.

What Were The Basic Results?[edit | edit source]

They were categorised in 3 groups. Group 1 swam less than 50 km, group 2 swam between 50 km and 100 km and group 3 swam more than 100 km. In each of the groups the severity of asthma had no indicated effect on the individual total distance covered by the end of the five months of training. There were significant reductions in the pre-training and post-training asthma disability scores with reduced episodes of wheezing. Skinfolds over all the groups declined however weigh increased due to a gain in muscle mass. Height increased slightly as posture improved. Physical work capacity increased amongst all groups with the biggest increase coming from group 2.

How Did the Researchers Interpret The Results?[edit | edit source]

The research indicated clearly that the swimming program had improved a number of factors that asthma has a direct link to inhibiting. The proof of reduced body fat, improved posture, increased work capacity and reduced wheezing episodes can all be attributed to the training program. However, there was no change in the bronchial reactivity in any of the groups. Meaning within each subject their bronchial responsiveness had not changed during the duration of the study. Even in the cases of the subjects being recorded as severe asthmatics.

What Conclusions Should Be Taken Away From This Research?[edit | edit source]

The physical measurements that have reflected positive improvements are what would appear unanticipated effects on the subject’s asthma disabilities and reduced wheezing episodes. In developing the fitness levels of the subjects and improving their general health the researchers have unintentionally reduced the episodes of wheezing and asthmatic episodes - without making a difference to their bronchial structure. Increased levels of exercise would seem to be beneficial to young people with asthma but cannot ever be regarded as a cure for the disease in isolation. It should be considered as an adjunct to any treatment program as it did seem to assist all the subjects in the test groups.

Referencing List[edit | edit source]

  1. Garvan Institute. 2013. Asthma - Garvan Institute. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.garvan.org.au/research/diseases-we-research/asthma?gclid=CjwKEAjw1MSvBRDj2IyP-o7PygsSJAC_6zodYkdzhTyLJ4jNC5krWK7qoUbShMadq-XRdB4Ov-9DyhoC8x7w_wcB. [Accessed 16 September 15].
  2. Asthma Australia. 2014. Asthma The Basic Facts. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.asthmaaustralia.org.au/uploadedFiles/Content/About_Asthma/Resources/AABasicFactslowres.pdf. [Accessed 16 September 15].
  3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2009. Asthma. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.aihw.gov.au/asthma/. [Accessed 16 September 15].