Exercise and Activity for All

Today, so many of us are focused on exercising, working out and wanting to feel fit! Some want to begin an exercise plan, but never seem to get started. 

For children and young adults with disabilities, it is just as important, yet we sometimes forget to include this population when we think of active lifestyles and fitness.

The American Academy of Pediatrics writes the following in an article entitled, “Physical Activity for Children and Teens with Disabilities: AA P Policy Explained”:

“Physical activity has countless benefits for everyone, including children with disabilities. Experts recommend that ALL kids and teens between 6 to 17 years old get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. They should also aim to do activities that strengthen their bones and muscles at least 3 days a week. That frequency, intensity, and amount of exercise can be adjusted to your child’s specific needs.

Unfortunately, children and teens with disabilities often face more obstacles when it comes to getting involved with sports and physical activities. That means they don’t participate as often. They also aren’t as physically fit, overall, and tend to have higher rates of obesity.

Benefits of physical activity

As pediatricians, we encourage children and teens with disabilities to participate in sports, recreation, and physical activities whenever possible. Getting your child involved can boost just about every aspect of their lives”.

The article then describes the benefits of exercise which are the following:

  • Better lung capacity and increased muscle strength
  • Improved physical and cognitive health
  • Lower body weight
  • Less isolation and increased feelings of being included
  • Better social skills and relationships
  • Improved mental health and academic achievement
  • Enhanced well-being and self-esteem
  • Improved sleep and behavior

One might ask, how do I get started and what type of activity should I do with my child? It might be best to first discuss this with your child’s doctor or physical therapist. These professionals will be able to direct you in the right direction. Starting slowly and taking it one step at a time, will help to build endurance and strength without taxing the body physically or overwhelming the individual to a point that it ends up being a negative experience. Exercising as a family or even with one or two members of the family can create new, positive interactions and dynamics. Going for a walk, riding a bike, or doing some stretching exercises might be an easy way to begin. 

For children and young adults with disabilities, we would like to suggest looking into three organizations that exist in our community that focus on exercise and fitness. These organizations include Special Olympics, Greystone Manor Therapeutic Riding Center and Fitness 4 Focus. For more information regarding each organization, visit their website. Exercise comes in many different forms; take the time to explore and find the appropriate one for you and your child (after conferring with your child’s therapist or doctor).