Extreme Preemies Can Achieve Normal Exercise Capacity

Aerobic capacity, exercise performance comparable for preterm and full-term born peers

TUESDAY, Dec. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Individuals born extremely preterm can achieve normal exercise capacity as well as aerobic capacity and response to physical training comparable to their peers born at term, according to a study published online Dec. 26 in Pediatrics.

Hege Clemm, M.D., of the Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen, Norway, and colleagues compared the aerobic capacity and exercise performance of 75 children and adolescents with a gestational age of ≤28 weeks or birth weight of ≤1,000 g with those of a group of 75 age- and gender-matched subjects who were born at term. Forced expiratory volume in one second and maximal treadmill exercise were used to compare aerobic capacity and exercise performance between the groups.

The researchers found that, although average running distance was approximately 10 percent shorter for the preterm group, overall aerobic capacity was normal for those born preterm and was in the same range for both groups. Preterm subjects tended to have lower participation in leisure-time physical activities, but exercise capacity was higher for those in either group who had greater participation in physical activities. Exercise capacity was not related to neonatal bronchopulmonary dysplasia or current airway obstruction.

"Despite their high-risk start to life and a series of potential shortcomings, subjects born preterm may achieve normal exercise capacity. Leisure-time physical activity was similarly and positively associated with exercise capacity in adolescent preterm and term-born subjects alike, although participation was lower in those born preterm. Parents of 'neonatal intensive care unit graduates' should actively encourage their children to participate in regular childhood physical activities and sports," the authors write.

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