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  Exercise helps Obese Children with Asthma

Asthma occurs when the main airways in your child's lungs called the bronchial tubes become inflamed and swollen. The muscles of the bronchial walls tighten, and extra mucus is produced. Airflow out of your child's lungs is diminished, often causing wheezing, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest and coughing.

SAN DIEGO (Reuters Health) -- Children who have asthma or who are obese, or both, report a better sense of well-being and show improved fitness after 2 months in a guided exercise program combined with "rap groups" and lifestyle education.

After 8 weeks of biweekly 40-minute workouts, children aged 10 to 15 showed significant gains in flexibility, strength and aerobic fitness, according to study results described at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology annual meeting. The children's lung function remained unchanged.

"Kids with asthma or who are overweight can really effect a change in how they look and feel," said James B. Sgritto, an exercise physiologist with Pfizer Inc. in New York. He devised the program, which he calls "The Eagle's Circle," with Pfizer's ongoing financing.

The study did not ask whether children continued to exercise months or years after their 8-week Eagle's Circle experience. But Sgritto said anecdotal reports suggest that children continue to incorporate exercise into their lives by doing such things as hauling the neighbor's groceries upstairs, or getting off the school bus two stops early.

"These are the same kids who were getting notes from their parents about taking the elevators, and saying that they didn't have to take gym," Sgritto said.

After their workouts, the children sat in a circle for a 20-minute "rap session," which included discussion of coping with asthma and obesity, and listening to coming of age stories, many of them of Native American origin.

"The eagle in Native American culture is considered a sacred bird," Sgritto explained. "Eagles fly in circles, higher and higher. It's a metaphor for a group of kids to get together, a power symbol for kids who feel powerless."

The study involved 119 children from 14 Eagle's Circle sites, mostly urban hospitals. Fitness was measured with a 3-minute heart rate stair step test, strength by abdominal curls and modified pushups, and flexibility with sit and reach stretches. Activities included careful warm-ups and cool downs to help prevent asthma attacks, as well as martial arts, weight lifting, and step aerobics.

The researchers noted that the children participating in the program did not experience worsening of their asthma, and there were no complications as a result of participating in the program.

Reference Source 39,52,89

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