BETTER cardiorespiratory endurance has been linked to a lower risk of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in children and adolescents in a new cohort study. The incidence of IBD in children has increased in the past 20 years, making it a global disease burden in low- to middle-income, as well as high income countries. While high physical activity has previously been shown to be associated with lower IBD risk, there is limited data on the link between IBD and physical fitness.
In total, nearly 1.4 million children with a mean age of 10.5 years participated in the study from January 2010 to December 2018. The physical fitness tests assessed various indicators of fitness including the number of bent-leg curl-ups in 1 minute for musculoskeletal endurance, with a mean of 2.7 curl-ups; the number of minutes to complete an 800 m run for cardiorespiratory endurance, with a mean of 5.0 minutes; 2-leg sit-and-reach distance for flexibility fitness, with a mean of 2.8 cm; and standing broad jump distance for musculoskeletal power, with a mean of 1.4 m.
While no association was observed for quantiles of flexibility fitness, those in the best-performing quantile of cardiorespiratory endurance had the lowest 6-year cumulative incidence of IBD, followed by musculoskeletal endurance and musculoskeletal power, compared to quantiles 2–4. The researchers noted that better cardiorespiratory endurance led to a lower risk in IBD in the 2-year latency period; however, this was not the case in the 3-year latency period.
The team concluded that better cardiorespiratory endurance was associated with a lower risk of IBD in children and adolescents, but that in stratified multivariable analyses musculoskeletal endurance, musculoskeletal power, and flexibility fitness were not associated with IBD risk. Limitations of the study included the observational study design, the fact that the team did not conduct multiple comparison adjustments due to low incidence of IBD, the small-scale spatial variation of air pollution that may not have been captured, and the confirmation of association in the 2-year period but not the 3-year period. Author Chun-Ying Wu, National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University Taipei, Taiwan, stated: “With the rapid increase of IBD in newly industrialised countries and globally, our study provides interesting evidence to the medical community and public health agencies. Future studies to explore the mechanisms are needed.”