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Fitness and Children with Chronic Illnesses

Exercise is a way for children to keep fit, have fun, build self-esteem, and re­late to other children. Even children with a serious chronic disease can enjoy the benefits of participating in safe and appropriate physical activity.

Talk with your pediatrician about whether restrictions are necessary for your child with a chronic illness; if they are, explain the situation fully to your youngster before imposing them. Obviously, she should not be in an athletic environment where her limitations place her in danger or significantly limit her opportunity to have some success. Nearly every child can find an appropriate level of activity in which she can participate successfully and without frustration, while developing muscle strength and coordination. Every child should be encouraged to become as active as possible.

Most chronic health problems actually require few, if any, restrictions. Chil­dren with asthma, for example, can usually participate in sports, although they may have to follow carefully their doctor's guidelines for medication ad­ministration before exercising. Youngsters with well-controlled seizure disor­ders can enjoy nearly all sports, from baseball to basketball to soccer— although if a child has occasional seizures, it is probably sensible to avoid ac­tivities such as rope climbing, high diving, and workouts on parallel bars, where a fall could cause a serious injury; while swimming, these children should be supervised by an adult who is in the water with them.

Children with heart disease or high blood pressure can participate in most sports, although your child's cardiologist may have specific recommendations about how strenuous an activity should be. Youngsters with musculoskeletal problems like scoliosis can also lead an active life, as can most children with rheumatoid arthritis.

Some youngsters have impaired, uncorrectable vision in one eye. In these cases, talk to an ophthalmologist about protecting the good eye from injury. Special protective eyewear may be suggested. Children who participate in sports where eyes are frequently injured, such as baseball, racquetball, and handball, are also advised to use protective eyewear.

The Special Olympics program offers unique, exciting experiences for dis­abled children, providing opportunities for physical fitness, competition, and enjoyment. Through their participation, children can enhance their self-esteem, and parents can connect with a valuable support system.

Last Updated
Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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