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Keeping Children with Disabilities Active and Healthy

  • Published: 2012-01-07 (Revised/Updated 2013-06-12) : AblePlay.
  • Synopsis: Parents with children with disabilities need to be a little extra creative sometimes to make sure that physical activities are part of their kids diet just like health foods
Childhood Obesity
Childhood Obesity - Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition that affects children and adolescents. It occurs when a child is well above the normal weight for his or her age and height. Childhood obesity is particularly troubling because the extra pounds often start children on the path to health problems that were once confined to adults, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Childhood obesity can also lead to poor self-esteem and depression. Obesity now affects 17% of all children and adolescents in the United States - triple the rate from just one generation ago.

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Quote: "Many parents believe that because of their disability, their children cannot be physically active, which is not the truth."

Obesity an Important Issue For Children with Disabilities - Childhood obesity is a growing problem. That's why it's so important for children to get proper exercise and make time to play, especially special needs children.

According to a Fact Sheet published by the University of Illinois at Chicago's Department of Disability and Human Development College of Applied Health Sciences, children with disabilities are at a greater risk for health concerns caused by obesity.

Obesity is fast becoming a major health issue for many children in the United States. Children with disabilities can be especially vulnerable to these health concerns.

The report states, "Childhood obesity has become an epidemic in the United States over the last generation. More children are overweight or obese today than ever before and the numbers continue to grow. Obesity is defined as 20% over the recommended weight for height or greater than 85 percentile for Body Mass Index (BMI). Childhood obesity is mainly caused by lack of physical activity."

Keeping children with special needs active with appropriate play products is one of the reasons the National Lekotek Center has sponsored the AblePlay website that researches products for children with special needs. Lekotek is one of the leading supporters of play as a way to keep children with special healthy, growing and developing. Chief Toy Evaluator for AblePlay, Ellen Metrick said, "When you search the marketplace and go to industry events, you do see great products that work well for children of all abilities. Our job is to let parents of children with disabilities know about these."

One category is bikes. Metrick has found a lot of great bikes that address the unique needs of children with special needs and keep kids in shape and active. Pedal-less beginner bikes are a great example because they allow the child to focus on learning the two most important elements - balance and steering. Another category that is one of Metrick favorites is trampolines because they gets kids active, burn energy and strengthen body awareness. "There are products out there that have the added stability and safety-features that make them perfect for children who have disabilities," Metrick adds, "and you can find them for both indoor and outdoor use."

The fact sheet published by the University of Illinois at Chicago goes on to state, "Children with disabilities are at an even greater risk for obesity because of their sedentary lifestyles. Many parents believe that because of their disability, their children cannot be physically active, which is not the truth. This lack of physical activity may not only lead to obesity, but to many other numerous health problems as well."

According to recommendations from the National Association for Sports and Physical Education school-age children should:

  • Get 1 hour or more of moderate and vigorous physical activity on most or all days
  • Participate in several bouts of physical activity of 15 minutes or more each day
  • Avoid periods of inactivity of 2 hours or more

Parents with children with disabilities need to be a little extra creative sometimes to make sure that physical activities are part of their kid's diet, just like health foods. Fortunately, there are online resources for the best and most appropriate choices to do just that.

For ideas on bikes, trampolines, and other plays products categorized by disabilities go to

Related Information:

  1. Exercise Reduces Depression Improves Self Esteem in Overweight Children - Less than an hour of daily exercise reduces depressive symptoms and improves self esteem in overweight children, Medical College of Georgia researchers say.
  2. Lack of Exercise Key to Increased BMI in Children - New independent study of scientific research has revealed that, contrary to the widely held hypothesis, dietary sugars are not the driving factor behind rising body mass index (BMI) levels in children.
  3. Benefits of Yoga for Children with Special Needs - Stretching the Mind and Body: The Benefits of Yoga for Children with Special Needs.

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