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
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.
Some of the many benefits can include:
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
Obstacles families may face
Physical activity is often at the bottom of the list in a child's treatment plan. This may be because parents and doctors don't always consider all the benefits of exercise, and may be concerned about the risk of injury.
Some of the other obstacles that can make it harder to participate include:
Physical or mental limitations
Lack of accessible facilities or programs
No access to providers who are experienced with adaptive sports for children with disabilities
Bullying by peers or negative stereotypes
How to get your child involved
Kids with disabilities should be offered the chance to participate in sports and other activities that get them moving. There are ways to adapt almost any sport or recreational program. Ask your child what activities they're interested in. Help steer them toward an activity that will help them have fun and do well.
Your child may enjoy activities such as:
Before you sign your child up, talk to your pediatrician about a
preparticipation physical evaluation. You can use this time to talk about any issues that could make it challenging for your child to participate in physical activity. Discuss what options are best for your child and what adaptive equipment they might need.
If needed, your pediatrician will get your child's other care team members involved. Together, they can create physical activity prescriptions. Goals for physical activity can even be a part of your child's
individualized education program (IEP) at school.
If your child needs adaptive equipment
There may be opportunities in your community for your child that you don't know about. Talk to your pediatrician or someone on your child's care team about activities and specialized programs. They may be able to guide you to an activity that would be a great fit for your child.
If the cost of adaptive equipment is an issue, look into grants in your area. Your local Social Services department is a good place to start. You can also check with national organizations like
Move United or
Talk with your pediatrician about physical activity, sports, and recreation options that would meet your child's needs.