Tag Archives: physical therapists

Growing A Family’s Health

By: Laura Basi, PT, MPT

Physical fitness is important for everyone, including children and adolescents with developmental disabilities.  Running is a great weight-bearing aerobic activity. It promotes cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, bone health, lower extremity strength and endurance, symmetry of movement in both upper and lower extremities, and emotional regulation.  Wheelchair racing promotes cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, upper extremity strength and endurance, and upper body symmetry.  These are all areas that children with developmental delays and disabilities can improve on. 

“Gross motor skills like jumping and running, and object control skills like throwing and catching, are the building blocks upon which more complex physical activity can be learned as children grow, so the sooner kids work on being active, the better.” From parents modeling physical activity help kids with developmental disabilities improve motor skills).

Our community program, Hustle for Your Health, helps children reach their fitness goals. Each week includes an outdoor aerobic activity in the form of running and walking or wheelchair propulsion, basic strengthening exercises, and stretching to cool-down. At the end of the program, children will be prepared to complete our Run for the Kids: Superhero Hustle to run or walk a 5k distance and are encouraged to participate in other local races too.

I have heard from countless families that are amazed at their child’s commitment to health during and after the 10-week program. Below, I share some tips to help all children grow their enthusiasm for wellness.

Growing a Child’s Love of Physical Fitness

  1. Make it fun. Choose activities your kids like. Some kids enjoy walking, running, and biking, but others may get more out of obstacle courses, climbing trees, hopscotch, rollerblading, dancing or a game of kickball in the yard.  The goal is to promote a love of movement.
  2. Variety is the spice of life. To prevent boredom, change things up. Tour the neighborhood using different modes of transport – walking, scootering, biking, skating; you can even make a walk feel different by bringing a ball to dribble while walking or by challenging your child to run to the next tree, skip to the next fire hydrant, leap across the next driveway, etc.
  3. When building endurance, add in activities for “active rest.” Lengthen a jog or a bike ride by bringing along a frisbee so that you can take a break in the middle of your run/ride to toss a frisbee before heading back home. Your child will have maintained being active for a longer period of time and be able to handle a longer distance with a built-in break.
  4. Stuck inside?  Get your body moving by:
    • Making up a dance routine.
    • Setting up an indoor obstacle course
    • Creating movement themed minute challenges. How many times can you…. in a minute? 
      • I.E: Run up and down the stairs, do sit-ups, do jumping jacks, push a basket of laundry across a room, run laps throughout your house.

Growing your child’s fitness and love for activities like running, biking or yoga, has a positive impact on their overall body health but also improves attention, mood and more. But one of the biggest factors in growing a child’s fitness was parent modeling according to a recent study published in the Disability and Health Journal. Caregivers and parents that model physical activity helped encourage their children to be active and created a supportive environment for children with developmental delays and disabilities. The study also mentions that starting this early, around preschool age, takes advantage of the fact that younger children are already spending significant time watching and copying parents.

During the State of Illinois’ stay-at-home order, children have more opportunities to spend time with their caregivers and model their activities. There are plenty of fitness activities the family can do together. Our annual Run for the Kids: Superhero Hustle helps many children at Easterseals make a goal to cross the finish line with their first independent steps, with a walker, or after reaching a new distance. Their goals help inspire other family members to join in their training and reach new levels of health. The new Superhero Hustle date is August 1, which gives participants three months to work on a new wellness goal.

Our goal is to help you reach yours! Set your intention for the next 3 months. What will your family accomplish by August 1? Will you run a 5K for the first time? Do 100 jumping jacks? Start each day with mindfulness and yoga? Tell us! To get started: 

  1. Register today at eastersealsdfvr.org/runforthekids.
  2. Set your wellness and fundraising goals.
  3. Share your progress with family and friends and encourage their support
  4. Make plans to “cross the finish line” on August 1 

One of my personal goals as a physical therapist for children with developmental delays and disabilities is to not only help improve their physical health but the entire families. Our Run for the Kids and Bike for the Kids events are opportunities to grow our family’s fitness with a very supportive community group.

Pilates for Kids

By: Laura Znajda, PT, C/NDT

A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine last month ranked United States children among the least fit in the world—the US ranked 47th out of 50 countries in physical fitness of our children!   With a sedentary lifestyle linked to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, it is more important than ever to get our children moving and instill healthy behaviors that will last a lifetime.  It’s been shown that children whose parents exercise regularly are more likely to exercise and be active as adults.  Exercising together is fun and more motivating for both parents and their kids.

A good physical fitness program includes a variety of exercise and movement activities.  Pilates is just one of many exercise methods that is gaining popularity among adults, and with its focus on core strength, stability, and body awareness, this exercise method can be used with kids too–and with great benefits.  And since many Pilates exercises use body or limb weight for resistance strengthening,  little to no equipment is needed.  So  grab a piece of floor and perhaps an exercise ball, and have fun while being active with your kids!

Pilates Bridge is an exercise that strengthens gluteal (buttock) muscles and hamstrings, while providing a stretch to flexor muscles across the front of the hips.  It requires core muscles to work together, leading to good posture and balance for all future dancers, gymnasts and sports enthusiasts. To make it fun for kids, help them place feet (and lower legs if more support is needed) on an exercise ball and lift hips and spine off the floor.  Weight should be on the shoulders and feet.  You can stabilize the ball if needed, or have the child wedge the ball in a corner before starting.

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Swimming Exercise strengthens extensor muscles of the back, hips, thighs and calves that kids need for running and jumping.   Lying flat on the tummy, have the child lift one arm at a time, keeping the legs straight and long.  As the child gets stronger, cue him to lift one or both legs off the floor , always keeping them stretched as long as possible.

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Younger children might need help stabilizing one arm against the floor while they lift the other.  Make it fun by pretending to be an alligator chomping on his dinner or reaching for small objects.

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Pilates Leg Circles are hard for many adults, and even harder for young kids who lack abdominal strength to stabilize the trunk while moving their legs above their body.  But working on the starting position for this exercise will help kids learn to engage abdominal muscles prior to moving their legs when climbing or kicking a ball. Ask the child to lie on his back and lift his feet above his body (hips at a 90 degree angle).  Make it fun by placing small bean bag animals on his feet or ask him to squeeze the animals between his feet.pilatesblog2

Plank strengthens core muscles that are critical for a stable, balanced body, whether your child likes to exercise on the playground or by playing a competitive sport.  The key with plank is to only hold the pose for as long as you can keep good form.

Give your child the support of an exercise ball to start, bringing her forward onto her hands.  Keep the ball positioned under the hips if needed; move it to the lower legs as the child gets stronger.  She should be able to keep her tummy lifted and the back straight (not arched or sagging).  As soon as the trunk starts to lose its form, take a rest and try again after a minute or two.  Make it fun by singing a song while holding the plank position.

Proof that Pilates exercise can be used by everyone, many Pilates moves have been adapted for use in rehabilitation.  Pilates is used to rehabilitate orthopedic injuries in adults as well as to strengthen and improve body awareness for children with neuromuscular disorders.

Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley therapists are expanding their knowledge of using Pilates in therapy with a continuing education course taught by Sara Koveleski Kraut, DPT,  on January 21-22, 2017.  The course is open for registration by adult and pediatric therapists at eastersealsdfvr.org/ce.

Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley is also a teaching center that provides innovative continuing education courses that promote therapeutic excellence for speech and language pathologists, physical and occupational therapists, educators and other professionals.  To be added to the course email list, please email us.