Aim. This paper reports a study comparing levels of physical activity and physical self-concepts between children with and without asthma.
Background. Childhood asthma has become one of the world's most prevalent chronic illnesses. Its symptoms are thought to prevent children from participating in some forms of physical activity. However, asthma treatment guidelines are increasingly suggesting that children with asthma can participate in the same physical activities as healthy children for the same reasons – to promote normal growth, physical development and psychological health.
Method. Between October 2001 and May 2002, 120 children between the ages of 9 and 11 with mild and moderate asthma were recruited from three paediatric asthma clinics in Taiwan, and 309 non-asthmatic children in the same age group were selected from four elementary schools in Taiwan's three largest cities. Participants were asked to record physical activity levels for 3 days out of the past 7 days and to fill out a 29-item Physical Self-Concept Inventory. Physical activities were classified as moderate-to-vigorous physical activity or vigorous physical activity. Physical self-concept was measured in terms of perceived flexibility, endurance, appearance, agility, obesity and strength.
Results. Asthma was the primary factor determining vigorous physical activity levels, but gender was the primary factor determining physical self-concept, especially in terms of endurance, obesity and strength. No statistically significant relationships were noted between asthma and gender in terms of effects on physical activity and physical self-concept.
Conclusions. Asthma interferes with children's ability to participate in vigorous physical activity but not in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Gender determines primary differences in physical self-concept. Appropriate exercise recommendations are necessary to encourage children with asthma to engage in vigorous physical activity for normal growth.