Exploring and explaining low participation in physical activity among children and young people with asthma: a review

Brian Williams, Alison Powell, Gaylor Hoskins, Ron Neville

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    106 Citations (Scopus)
    1 Downloads (Pure)


    Background: Asthma is the most common chronic illness among children and accounts for 1 in 5 of all child GP consultations. This paper reviews and discusses recent literature outlining the growing problem of physical inactivity among young people with asthma and explores the psychosocial dimensions that may explain inactivity levels and potentially relevant interventions and strategies, and the principles that should underpin them.

    Methods: A narrative review based on an extensive and documented search of search of CinAHL, Embase, Medline, PsycINFO and the Cochrane Library.

    Results & Discussion: Children and young people with asthma are generally less active than their non-asthmatic peers. Reduced participation may be influenced by organisational policies, family illness beliefs and behaviours, health care advice, and inaccurate symptom perception and attribution. Schools can be reluctant to encourage children to take part in physical education or normal play activity due to misunderstanding and a lack of clear corporate guidance. Families may accept a child's low level of activity if it is perceived that breathlessness or the need to take extra inhalers is harmful. Many young people themselves appear to accept sub-optimal control of symptoms and frequently misinterpret healthy shortness of breath on exercising with the symptoms of an impending asthma attack.

    Conclusion: A multi-faceted approach is needed to translate the rhetoric of increasing activity levels in young people to the reality of improved fitness. Physical activity leading to improved fitness should become part of a goal orientated management strategy by schools, families, health care professionals and individuals. Exercise induced asthma should be regarded as a marker of poor control and a need to increase fitness rather as an excuse for inactivity. Individuals' perceptual accuracy deserves further research attention.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number40
    Number of pages11
    JournalBMC Family Practice
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2008


    • Symptom perception
    • Childhood asthma
    • Pediatric asthma
    • Urban children
    • Primary-care
    • Management
    • School
    • Adolescents
    • Dyspnea
    • Schoolchildren


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