Does your child love running around? Why they may be less likely to get the sniffles
- Study analysed activity levels of 104 children aged four to seven for 60 days
- For every 1,000 extra steps they took, symptoms of illness reduced by four days
- NHS recommends pre-school children do physical activity for three hours a day
Children who run around more could be less likely to end up with coughs and colds.
A study of 104 children aged four to seven suggests regular exercise may ward off the sniffles.
The children wore a fitness tracker armband for 40 days to measure their daily steps and type of physical activity.
Their parents filled out a daily survey for 60 days on their symptoms of coughs, sneezes, sore throats, runny and blocked noses, and tiredness.
The study, led by the Medical University of Warsaw, and published in the journal Pediatric Research (CORR) analysed the physical activity levels of 104 children aged four to seven
For every 1,000 extra steps a day taken by children, the time they spent with the symptoms of illness was reduced by more than four days.
The study, led by the Medical University of Warsaw, and published in the journal Pediatric Research, concludes: ‘Through contact with the natural environment and socialisation opportunities, children benefit from being exposed to sunlight, natural elements, and open air, all of which contribute to a stronger immune system.
‘However, the recently observed displacement from a physically active lifestyle and the refrainment from a natural outdoor environment in all segments of the human population, even among the youngest of children, has led to a sedentary indoor lifestyle (due to excessive use of modern technology) and may be reflected in chronic diseases that are endemic to our culture.
‘Parents of pre-school children should encourage their wards to engage in physical activity every day, creating opportunities and possibilities for physical activity involving entire families, especially if their children do not regularly participate in sports activities.’
It is normal for children under five to have as many as 12 upper respiratory tract infections, like the common cold, in a single year.
That is because there are hundreds of different viruses and young children have never had any of them before, so have no immunity.
Most colds get better in five to seven days, but it can take up to two weeks in small children.
They gradually build up immunity, with the rate reducing when they start primary school.
The new study suggests pre-school children with high levels of daily exercise may be less susceptible to upper respiratory tract infections.
Researchers split the children into two groups – an active and less active group.
The less active group of 47 children, based on their daily steps in the first two weeks of the study, spent a combined 947 days suffering symptoms like coughs and sneezes.
That compared to only 724 total days of symptoms among the active group.
Additionally, children participating in three or more hours of sport per week tended to experience fewer days with symptoms of respiratory tract infections than those not regularly participating in sports.
Children who did not regularly play sports had more severe symptoms of upper respiratory infections when they did fewer daily steps.
The daily steps were recorded on the days when the children, who lived in Poland, were not unwell.
More research is needed, in a larger number of children, but the study authors suggest higher physical activity levels could promote better immune responses in young children.
Pre-school children should spend at least three hours a day doing physical activity, including outdoor play, according the NHS.
Children of this age should not be inactive for long periods of time, except for when they are asleep.
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