A major part of being a kid is playing, and this daily physical activity serves a greater purpose than simply giving kids a way to blow off excess steam. Regular physical exercise keeps kids healthy and happy. For those with disabilities, it’s harder to work regular physical exercise into a normal routine. Though it’s more difficult, it’s no less vital.
Why it’s important for kids with disabilities to stay active
Every human being needs to participate in physical activity – and most professionals recommend around 30-45 minutes a day (at least) of moderate exercise. But kids, especially, need a lot of physical activity to promote healthy bone growth, stave off weight gain and to help them develop the physical and mental skills they will need as they grow up.
“Children and adults with disabilities can gain numerous mental and physical benefits from being physically active on a regular basis including: reduced risk of chronic and secondary conditions, improved self-esteem and greater social interaction,” says HHS.gov.
Without proper exercise, kids are at greater risk for childhood obesity, bone loss, antisocial behavior, poor circulation and blood clots and many more health problems.
How to ensure kids with disabilities get enough exercise
For kids with disabilities, participating in sports is not only possible but it’s highly recommended. Sports not only provide plenty of exercise, but they instill a healthy sense of pride, accomplishment and team building in kids. This is vital to becoming a well-adjusting adult.
It’s important to know that you need to approach your child’s sports ventures with a positive, but realistic outlook.
“Parents of special needs children should encourage participation in sports and physical activity in general. Don't approach sports as something they can't do, but rather guide them toward participating in sports in which they can succeed and have fun doing so,” notes the University of Rochester Medical Center.
In other words, it’s smart to steer them toward sports and activities at which they have a high chance of success. The options are great – from wheelchair sports like basketball, tennis, handball, soccer and volleyball to more extreme sports like skiing, surfing, kayaking and rock climbing (all accessible through adaptive equipment). If you live in an area with a lot of outdoor parks, take advantage of the opportunities for open play.
Consider taking your child(ren) on a hike. This may not be the first thing that springs to mind for getting a child with a disability active, but it can actually be a great option. Helen Olsson has some great tips for hiking with kids, including timing the hike, playing games, taking adequate breaks and giving them plenty of snacks and water. And make sure to have a look at this list of tips for hiking with your child with special needs.
Here are some more fun ways to get kids with disabilities active.
Make sure to teach abled kids how to be more inclusive with disabled kids. Kids with disabilities will be able to participate in a wider range of activities if their classmates, friends and other kids around them are taught how to better accommodate their special needs.
“Applaud and encourage helping behaviors, but also teach children to encourage their classmate to do as much as possible on his own,” says Extension.org. “Encourage children to find creative ways to include a child with a physical disability in their play activities. For example, moving blocks to a table might make it easier for a child in a wheelchair to participate.”
If you are a parent of an able-bodied child, teach them that it’s always a priority to make sure they help those with disabilities participate in playtime. If you are a teacher, daycare worker, coach or anyone else that deals with children on a regular basis, teaching disabled acceptance should become part of your curriculum.
As with any child, those with disabilities require a lot of physical activity to remain healthy, happy and socially tuned. By encouraging your child to participate in adaptive sports and making sure the kids around them are accepting and willing to help accommodate, you are setting your disabled child up for success as they grow up.
-by Travis White, LearnFit.org
Travis considers himself a foodie and loves sharing his cooking tips and recipes. He writes about food in his spare time. He enjoys showing LearnFit visitors how to cook restaurant-quality meals at home.
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