Exercise May Lower Risk of Respiratory Tract Infections in Pre-School Aged Children

Low physical activity levels increase respiratory tract infection susceptibility in pre-school aged children, according to a study published this month in the journal Pediatric Research.

The association was studied in 104 children ages 4 years old to 7 years old.

Children up to six years old have immature immune and respiratory systems, making them more susceptible to upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) than older children and adults. URTIs have a $40 billion impact on the U.S. economy each year. They are the cause of 10 percent of outpatient and emergency room visits.

For pre-school aged children, a higher step count meant fewer URTI symptoms over the long term as well as fewer days of URTI symptoms when they get a URTI, the study found. An increase of 1,000 steps per day decreased the number of days a child experienced URTI by four days.

Children who participated in at least three hours of sports each week had fewer URTI symptoms than those with lower participation or no participation in sports.

The study’s authors hypothesized that physical activity may reduce levels of inflammatory cytokines, which are proteins associated with chronic inflammation, so the more activity a child gets, the lower their level of these proteins and the better their immune system.

The authors recommended that parents encourage children to engage in more physical activity to help prevent the infections. The World Health Organization recommends 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day.

The study used data collected by the children’s parents from 2018 to 2019.

Other studies have shown the benefits of physical activity on children’s metabolic profile, bone mineral density, cardiorespiratory fitness and insulin sensitivity, the authors noted.