Exercise in Children

Our specialist paediatric helpline nurse Emma Greenslade explores the topic of exercise in children with cardiomyopathy. 

"Active lifestyles are known to reduce the rates of illnesses, while sedentary habits place individuals at risk for the development of diseases such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and musculoskeletal injuries to name a few. 

While most of the documented improvements are reported in adults, there is emerging evidence that children may benefit as well. The growing rates of obesity in the recent years in children/adolescents are in part due to lack of exercise and a slower lifestyle.

There is an associated downward spiral where children who have a chronic disease are more sedentary,  placing them at greater risk for secondary diseases such as diabetes, musculoskeletal injuries and so on. 

There are many governmental guidelines for physical activity in children. Most of these guidelines were written with the normal healthy child in mind. As it relates to the healthy child population, physical activity is usually recommended as preventative therapies. But restrictions are often set (by either the family or the health care provider) when a child has been diagnosed with a chronic illness such as cardiomyopathy. These limitations aim to decrease the risk for further or additional complications as a result of physical activity. However, data is limited on safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of exercise programs for children/adolescents with chronic illnesses. New and emerging data are beginning to show the effectiveness and safety of supervised exercise programs in children with chronic diseases. 

It is always good to have a chat with your cardiologist and ask specifically what exercise your child can and can't do. Don't restrict your child, but keep them active within their own limitations. Set up a program with the PE teacher; talk to sports coaches and keep your football-loving child on the field. 

Having regular conversations with your child and their teachers about staying safe with exercise will help. Making sure it stays fun and they feel included within teams and classes is also equally as important. If they are very sporty and used to playing highly competitively it may be a difficult step to take. It may help to share your worries or great stories about your child's love or fear of exercise with cardiomyopathy."

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