Sport, children's secret to good lungs in adulthood

Children who are physically active have healthier lungs as adults. For New Zealand researchers, this better physical form could protect them from certain chronic lung diseases. We take stock.

Better respiratory capacity, reduced risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, fight against stress: the benefits of sport on health are widely known today. For children too, playing sport has long-term positive effects. Those who have physical activity would have better lung abilities in adulthood. This is revealed by research published by the European Respiratory Journal.

A possible protection against chronic pulmonary diseases

The study was conducted by New Zealand researchers from the University of Otago and led by Professor Bob Hancox. He explains, "Our research shows that children who are physically fit have better lung capabilities later, when they are young adults, and we think this could reduce the risk for them to develop chronic lung diseases as they get older." The symptoms of these diseases are, indeed, rare before the age of 50 years. We talk about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It may be chronic bronchitis or emphysema (related to lung deformation). Sick people are easily breathless and regularly have coughing fits.

Better pulmonary weight training

The research builds on two other studies, involving a total of 2406 children in Denmark and New Zealand. Aerobic capacity tests carried out on a bicycle were conducted at different ages (between 9 and 38 years) as well as pulmonary function tests. Early results show that kids who are athletic have better lung capacity. The more they improve their physical condition during childhood, the better their lung capacity in adulthood.

These effects are more visible in boys than in girls. "We do not know why fitness and lung capacity are linked, but one of the possible explanations would be that physically fit people have more muscular breathing muscles, and are more muscular overall." For researchers, the challenge now is to know if these benefits on the lungs are still present when these young adults age. Above all, they want to understand if this better lung capacity can better protect against chronic lung diseases.

In general, physical activity is as good for children as it is for adults. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends an hour of physical activity for children aged 5 to 17: playing football, hide and seek, walking more: there are many possibilities. To your sneakers!