Time to change the stigma, be creative, adaptable and raise awareness that ‘exercise’ is for every child!
I started WeFlex almost 3 years ago and I‘ve read every piece of research on kids exercise and disability that I could get my hands on. Sadly, there isn’t a tonne of research out there and some of it is already dated but one thing remained consistent: appropriate exercise and physical activity is always beneficial (no matter how much or how little). Adaptability is key!
I couldn’t find a report that concluded with the notion ‘under no circumstances should kids on the spectrum or with a disability exercise’.
In fact, they often reported not only the benefits we all experience with exercise and physical activity – like improved mood and sleep. Some research for example showed that the benefits for kids on the spectrum went beyond this and showed signs of improved regulation, on-task concentration, and ‘positive’ behaviours. Neat right? Most kids with a disability don’t need special gyms, personal trainers and NDIS clinicians to help them get active and moving. There is plenty you can do right now at home to begin to introduce it to their lives and routines. Below are just 5 ways you can get your family up and moving to access some of these benefits.
- Morning walks (or roll). Exercising and moving first thing in the morning is great because it’s done early and so no matter what the day throws at you, it’s already ticked off. It also helps kids go to sleep and wake up. It’s not just the exercise component, but morning sun can assist with vitamin D absorption and improve your mood and ability to concentrate throughout the day. Even if someone in your family is in a wheelchair, benefits are still there. It can also be incorporated into existing routine. If they catch the bus to school, walk/roll to the next stop, if you drive them, park the car a block further away and walk or roll. Start the morning right.
- Balloons! Not a typo. I’ve done all kinds of workouts over the years yet the toughest one ever had one piece of ‘equipment’ – a balloon. We’re not sure if it’s slightly more famous because of Bluey’s Keepy Uppy game? Nonetheless balloons are awesome (and very cheap) fitness aides. Setting up a game of balloon tennis starts off easy but after a while the shoulder workout kicks in. Bat it to each other, not letting it touch the floor can have you running around upping the cardiovascular output. The games also promotes hand-eye coordination, can be done indoors and little risk of it knocking off that priceless, antique vase. They are also bright which makes it easy for children with low vision to spot. Balloons baby. Ps. If you want to up the challenge…add more balloons 😉
- Dance parties. If your kids love the Disney movies, YouTubers, Netflix shows etc and loves to sing and dance along to them – embrace it and join in. Not only is it exercise for you, but is for them as well. Dancing is a great workout, can be fun and singing along only adds to the cardiovascular effort. This is also a wet-weather-proof workout. Further to that, there are so many dance tutorials on YouTube to follow along to, which have the added cognitive benefit of learning and memorising movements.
- If they want to play video games, make them stand. I’ve been reading a lot about sitting vs standing in relation to work and I’ve started to incorporate these learnings into my daily life. Standing to work or play games burns more calories, is better for back and posture, improves balance and builds leg muscles. Even something as simple as getting your child to stand to play games is a sneaky way to incorporate some form of activity or physical challenge into their downtime.
- Toilet Paper Rolls! So this is one for kids who are a bit more limited in their range of movement, coordination and cognitive functioning. I’ve had a few clients with cerebral palsy who needed a bit more time to get their arms moving. So I grabbed some toilet paper rolls, drew some faces on them and had the client knock them over. It’s fun, easy and promotes movement, reach and coordination. If your child uses a wheelchair and has a table or try you can even mark the location of the rolls each time to hopefully see a progression over time of their reach. You can time how long it takes and finally end the session with a demolition derby where they have to knock over all the rolls as fast as possible. Even kids in wheelchairs with limited mobility can be active and have fun doing so!
Movement doesn’t have to be regimented or gruelling or even feel like they have just climbed Everest! Incorporating play and engagement into daily life are ways you can promote any level of movement and exercise whilst having fun.
If you manage to smash the above out of the park and feel like your child is ready to work with a NDIS personal trainer let us know 🙂 Otherwise, stay tuned for more tips and tricks on how to get the kids moving at home or outdoors! Together, WeFlex