As the United States struggles to make progress in the obesity fight, one aspect of the battle often gets overlooked; children with special abilities. The struggle to meet the daily recommendation of 60 minutes of physical aerobic activity daily for children ages 6-17, kids with unique physical or cognitive challenges often fail to come close to reaching that daily goal.
If you are raising a child that falls under this category, you know it definitely has it’s own challenges. When it comes to ensuring your child is able to get exercise, you know that it often means you have to find creative ways to get your child up and moving, and you may find your child being entertained my a television or computer is easier. However, in the long run it is not.
Did you know that for children with disabilities, obesity rates are approximately 38% higher than for children without disabilities? The statistics get worse as those children with special abilities grow into adults. Obesity rates for adults with disabilities are approximately 57% higher than for adults without disabilities.
Our bodies are not made for sedentary lifestyles. We are made for movement and activity. That activity may look different to someone who has abilities and skills that create obstacles, but the need remains. A child with physical or cognitive challenges, may not engage in muscle-strengthening exercises such as climbing a tree or a rope, but can get equal exercise by the use of resistance bands and equipment. A child with special needs may not be able to go for a run to get intense aerobic exercise, but can get that same workout by riding a bike (mobile or stationary) or by participating in group play activities.
Believe it or not, there is power in exercise for children with special needs. Not only will your child see improvements physiologically through increased coordination, flexibility and muscle strength, your child will also gain psychological improvements as well! Increased physical activity will help boost self-esteem, sense of accomplishment and self-confidence. Having a source of physical activity can also help your child have an effective outlet for dealing with stress and anxiety.
Our bodies are not made for processed foods. Regardless of physical or mental abilities, our bodies are made for real food. The obesity epidemic is built on two major factors: lack of exercise and lack of proper nutrition.
Above all parents, remember…you are a role model. Encourage the whole family to get up and moving. Take after dinner walks, go to the park, play in the backyard. Play in your house. Fill your fridge with cut up veggies and ample fruit. Foods like hummus, salsa are great for quick and easy snacks. Don’t let your child’s menu work against them. If you regularly choose fast food over real food, you are choosing convenience over quality. Set the tone of a healthy lifestyle for your child by leading the way. Make exercise and wise nutrition choices a daily activity, as well as a source of family fun. Make it a lifestyle!
Peace, Love, Laughter!