Lack of physical activity increased susceptibility to respiratory infections

(ORDO NEWS) — The aim of the new study was to establish an association between the level of physical activity and the risk of upper respiratory tract infections in preschoolers.

Polish scientists from the Medical University of Warsaw have found a link between higher levels of physical activity in preschool children and their susceptibility to upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs), such as colds, pharyngitis, tonsillitis, laryngitis and others.

URTIs continue to pose significant challenges – both economic and health – around the world. For example, upper respiratory tract infections cost the United States about $40 billion and account for 10% of all outpatient and emergency visits to healthcare facilities.

Children under the age of six are especially vulnerable to respiratory diseases due to the immaturity of their immune and respiratory systems.

While these infections are often treated quickly and easily, they can affect a patient’s quality of life, cause parental distress, and in the long term lead to family problems, job difficulties and strain on health care systems.

There is no consensus on the benefits of physical activity in preventing upper respiratory tract infections and reducing the risk of developing them in children. The team of Wojciech Feleshko and Katarzyna Ostzyszek-Przezecka decided to fill this gap.

The study was conducted in the autumn-winter period of 2018-2019 (before the coronavirus pandemic), it involved 104 small residents of the Masovian Voivodeship in Poland from four to seven years old who attended preschool education institutions.

The children had to wear a pedometer 24 hours a day for 40 days to measure activity levels and sleep duration.

Parents or legal guardians filled out questionnaires daily for two months that noted the presence of symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections – cough, nasal congestion, sore throat or sneezing – in children.

In the second questionnaire, adults talked about their children’s vaccinations, their physical activity and sports (regular activities meant at least three hours a week), the presence of brothers and sisters, smoking family members and pets.

Nearly 94% of parents reported that their children are regularly vaccinated. All participants received vitamin D3 supplements.

The results showed that fewer days when children had URTI symptoms correlated with more daily steps (7152 ± 1847 steps on “healthy” days) and regular participation in sports.

For 47 participants who averaged 5668 steps per day, the total number of days with URTI symptoms over the next six weeks was 947.

If the daily number of steps was 9368 (for one child), the total number of days with symptoms decreased to 724.

At the same time, preschoolers from the “less active” group had the most such unhealthy days.

According to scientists, this indicates a link between the level of physical activity and susceptibility to infections of the upper respiratory tract.

The duration of sleep, the presence of brothers and sisters, vaccinations, contact with pets and people who smoke did not affect the results.

“The mechanisms responsible for the observed association between physical activity and the incidence of URTI in children have not yet been thoroughly investigated and described.

Regular physical activity can reduce levels of inflammatory cytokines, thereby offsetting the effects of chronic inflammation associated with aging and chronic disease.

Exercise is thought to help reduce mild inflammation by lowering C-reactive protein, interleukin-6 , and reducing blood mononuclear cell production of tumor necrosis factor and patients at risk for cardiovascular disease.

Based on data on the immune response to physical activity in adults, it can be assumed that sports, especially regular moderate-intensity endurance exercise, activate T-helper- mediated immune functions, increase lymphocyte proliferation, and increase interleukin-2 levels.

Therefore, they help reduce the risk of infections and autoimmune diseases in the elderly, ”the authors of the article said.

Of course, the observational nature of the new scientific work did not allow us to draw unambiguous conclusions about the causal relationship. Therefore, further research lies ahead.


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