Fit children have healthier lungs as adults: study

11/02/2018

Kids who are fit during childhood and adolescence have better functioning lungs as adults, a study has found. Good lung function in early adult life is believed to lower the risk of developing chronic lung disease later in life.
Chronic lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), are a leading cause of global ill health and, with an ageing population, this is projected to get worse, researchers said. The study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, provides early evidence that keeping children fit could help reduce the burden of lung disease in the future.
"We know very little about the links between physical activity, fitness and lung growth. This is a difficult topic to research because following children over many years is expensive and time consuming," said Bob Hancox, from the University of Otago in New Zealand. "This study shows that children who are physically fit go on to have better lung function as young adults. We think that this could reduce the risk of them developing chronic lung diseases as they get older," Hancox said.
The study included a total of 2,406 children, combining a study of 1,037 children in Dunedin, New Zealand and a second group of 1,369 in Odense, Denmark. The Dunedin study used a cycling test at ages 15, 26, 32, and 38 to estimate fitness from the heart rate response to exercise.
In the Odense group, aerobic fitness was tested at ages 9, 15, 21 and 29 using an exercise bike to see how much exercise each person could do before they were exhausted. Lung function tests were done at the same ages in both studies.
The results show that fitter children had better lung function and the more their fitness improved during childhood, the greater their lung capacity when they reached adulthood.
The link between lung function and fitness remained after the researchers took account of factors such as height, weight, asthma, and smoking. The results also showed a stronger effect in boys than girls.
"We don't know why fitness and lung function are linked but one explanation could be that fitter people have better respiratory muscle strength as well as other muscle strength," said Hancox.

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