The Science Journal of the American Association for Respiratory Care
Background: Asthma is the most common chronic illness of childhood affecting nearly 5 million children in the United States. Urban children are at greatest risk; prevalence of inner-city asthma is twice the national rate (8.6% vs. 4.3%). Asthmatic adolescents often avoid physical activity due to fears of triggering an exacerbation. Inactivity leads to physical deconditioning, as well as obesity and low self-esteem, which in turn can cause asthma to worsen. United States data indicate the percentage of overweight adolescents has more than doubled in the past 25 years from 5% to 11%. Aim: To investigate whether a noncompetitive, fitness-wellness program for inner-city adolescents with asthma and / or obesity can result in an increase in exercise tolerance and endurance.
Methods: Our Respiratory Department in conjunction with Pfizer Inc. sponsored a fitness-wellness program for asthmatic and / or obese adolescents (10-15 years old). Participants met twice weekly after school for 8 weeks. Hospital-based sessions lasted for 60-90 minutes. Each session included three major components: (1) exercise (warm-up, martial arts, aerobics, strength training, flexibility, and cool down), (2) stress management (breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, and mental imagery), and (3) group discussions (peer issues, health issues, medication compliance, improving self-image and self-confidence, etc...). All participants received fitness evaluations at program entry (Session 1) and at program completion (Session 15). Individual fitness evaluations consisted of three areas of measurement. (1) Strength (maximum number of abdominal curls and modified pushups), (2) aerobic fitness (heart rate before and after 3 minute step test using a metronome set at 96 beats/ minute), (3) flexibility (standard sit and reach test), and (4) peak flow (asthmatics only, tested for best peak flow of three attempts). Data were compared with a paired student t-tests at a significance level of p< 0.05.
Results: Ten children completed the fitness-wellness program. All 10 were African Americans. There were 6 females and 4 males. The distribution of participant's chronic conditions was: asthma / weight problems (n= 2), asthmatics only (n= 2) and weight problems only (n= 6). In the table below, group means (±SD) are compared for conditioning variables measured at program entry and program completion.
|Conditioning Variables||Program Entry||Program Completion||p value|
|Modified push-ups||18.9 (± 11.3)||27.9 (± 15.2)||0.011|
|Curl-Ups||26.1 (± 17.1)||35.7 (± 14.0)||0.017|
|Heart Rate Resting||100.3 (± 12.6)||104.0 (± 11.4)||0.584|
|Heart Rate (3-Min.)||151.2 (± 26.5)||135.3 (± 18.3)||0.114|
Conclusion: A noncompetitive, fitness-wellness program for inner-city adolescents with asthma and / or obesity can result in an increase in exercise tolerance and endurance after 16 exercise sections. While not statistically significant, the overall group mean for heart rate post exercise did decrease. Further programs are currently in process to provide a larger study sample for future analysis.