Exercise as it relates to Disease/The Effects of Swimming Training on Children with Asthma
What is the background to this research?
Asthma is a relatively common long term inflammatory disease that affects the respiratory system. In particular, someone suffering from an asthma attack will experience their bronchial tubes to constrict, which inhibits their ability to breathe, and can prove to be life-threatening if left untreated. The stimulus for an asthma attack can vary from person to person with common triggers being pollen, cold air, cigarette smoke and prolonged exercise. Approximately 1 in 10 Australians suffer from asthma with approximately a third of those diagnosed being under the age of 18. It was also the cause of 389 Australian deaths in 2013 which highlight the importance of asthma research.
Where is the research from?
This research was conducted by the Department of Physical Education and Recreation through the University of Western Australia in 1976 and was funded from a grant provided by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia. The authors; K.D. Fitch, A.R. Morton and B.A. Blanksby have all penned multiple sports science and medical related articles.
What kind of research was this?
This research is primarily a quantitative study that incorporates qualitative components to gain a greater understanding of the effects that swimming has on asthma. It has a focus on statistical evidence provided by pre and post physiological testings but also asks for questionnaires to be filled to assess other physiological results and the psychological effects. This method provides context for the quantitative data and gives them further significance.
What did the research involve?
In this experiment, 46 children, aged 9 through to 16, with asthma were required to undergo swimming training over a five month period to determine whether or not swimming had any effect on asthma. To determine a base measurement, subjects were required to perform a nine minute submaximal test on a treadmill with an increase in workload every three minutes to keep the subjects heart rate at 170-180 bpm. They also obtained general physiological information including BMI, skinfolds, posture examination and a full medical and exercise history.
The swimming program was implemented by professional swimming coaches who were informed to start with three one-hour sessions per week and build that up until they reach their goal of five one-hour sessions a week. The training sessions were devised to improve swimming technique and to be aerobic in nature to improve the cardiorespiratory fitness of the subjects.
A post-training analysis was performed where subjects gave the same physiological information and undertook the same submaximal treadmill determine if any improvements were seen over the five-month period. Subjects, coaches and parents were also asked to complete a questionnaire regarding the program to gain a further understanding of the results.
What were the basic results?
The results showed that there was a decrease in asthma attacks over the five-month period although it was noted that this could be due to seasonal changes and a reduction in pollen. It was also shown that there was no reduction in exercise induced asthma when they partook in the submaximal treadmill test. Despite this it was concluded that swimming was an effective way in conditioning young asthmatics as it was seen that body fat percentage decreased and there was an increase in swimming speed and stamina.
The questionnaire showed that swimming did not elicit an asthma attack in any participants despite participants reporting that they suffered moderate or severe asthma. Participants were happy that they had participated in the program and reported physiological and psychological benefits.
What conclusions can we take from this research?
Swimming failed to reduce the rate of occurrence of exercise induced asthma but swimming itself did not trigger an asthma attack. Therefore, swimming is an effect way for asthmatic children and adolescents to participate in physical activity with minimal risk of an asthmatic attack which would otherwise be a deterrent for exercise.
As this research was conducted in 1976 it can be considered out of date however more recent studies have shown alignment with these results noting that swimming was well-tolerated by children and adolescents with asthma.
Sufferers of asthma should always consult a doctor before starting a new exercise program to ensure that they minimise the risk of an asthma attack. However, this research suggests that whilst swimming is not a treatment for asthma, it can be very beneficial to the overall health of an asthmatic.
For further information about asthma, click on the links below:
• General information: http://www.asthmaaustralia.org.au/national/about-asthma/what-is-asthma
• Asthma and physical activity: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/asthma-and-exercise
• Asthma management: http://sma.org.au/resources-advice/injury-fact-sheets/asthma-management/
- Fitch K, Morton A, Blanksby B. Effects of swimming training on children with asthma. Archives of Disease in Childhood. 1976;51(3):190-194.
- Asthma Australia - An Asthma Australia site [Internet]. Asthmaaustralia.org.au. 2016 [cited 26 September 2016]. Available from: https://www.asthmaaustralia.org.au/
- Rosimini C. Benefits of Swim Training for Children and Adolescents with Asthma. Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. 2003;15(6):247-252.
- How many people die from asthma? (AIHW) [Internet]. Aihw.gov.au. 2016 [cited 26 September 2016]. Available from: http://www.aihw.gov.au/asthma/deaths/
- Beggs S, Foong Y, Le H, Noor D, Wood-Baker R, Walters J. Swimming training for asthma in children and adolescents aged 18 years and under. Evid-Based Child Health. 2013;8(5):1514-1581.
- Font-Ribera L, Villanueva C, Nieuwenhuijsen M, Zock J, Kogevinas M, Henderson J. Swimming Pool Attendance, Asthma, Allergies, and Lung Function in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children Cohort. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2011;183(5):582-588.