Tag Archives: run

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.

Tips For Fitness-Focused Activities: Run, Golf, Bike & More

Fitness-focused activities are a great complement to a child’s therapy sessions, and an opportunity to work on therapy goals while also participating in an athletic or recreational activity.  By encouraging involvement in new activities for children of all abilities, they are learning the importance of health and wellness at a young age.

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The benefits of fitness-focused activities are far-reaching and can impact a child in many ways.

“We all need to challenge ourselves in order to reach our potential. Our job as therapists is to to see that potential in others and encourage kids to try activities that are outside their comfort zones, so they will truly be all they can be.  Any fitness or recreational activity that interests a child is worth pursuing for the benefits it provides physically as well as emotionally, cognitively and socially.”  – Laura Znajda, PT, C/NDT

Physical Wellness
Children of all abilities should participate in athletic and/or recreational activities as physical fitness is important for ALL.  Physical fitness, as defined by the American Physical Therapy Association, is “a dynamic physical state – comprising of cardiovascular/pulmonary endurance; muscle strength, power, endurance and flexibility; relaxation; and body composition – that allows optimal and efficient performance of daily and leisure activities.”

Just because as individual has a disability, does not mean that physical fitness is any less important.

Building Confidence
Participating in activities outside of a child’s comfort zone help support their emotional development.  Trying something new can be intimidating and challenging. Keep the focus on what makes the activity fun and avoid getting caught up in the competition. Every child approaches new activities differently, but it’s ok to remind them that no one is good at everything.  No one!  You can help temper frustration by celebrating every improvement – no matter how small, and sharing your own example of a time that practice and persistence led to success.

Socialization
Physical activities take many forms and are a great opportunity to increase peer interactions, build friendships and promote health and wellness for the whole family. Embrace a child’s interests and find ways to involve friends and family.

Setting Goals and Staying Motivated
Community based therapy programs and special recreation can target individualized therapy goals. For example, a child with hemiparesis might be working on running in order to use both sides of her body more fluidly, as needed for natural arm swing while walking. A child with sensory processing challenges might be building the strength needed for wall climbing so that he can include this activity in his weekly routine to assist with state regulation.

Motivation comes from finding ways to turn therapy activities into games with friendly competition, involving the whole family and plenty of cheering!

Therapy activities include dynamic warm-ups which may include animal walks, relay races, and jumping games; a progressive walk/run/bike program building up to increased time running/biking and increased overall distance; client-specific strengthening and agility tasks to target weak muscle groups and to promote the symmetry of movement required to efficiently run or ride a bike; and stretching to promote muscle flexibility and adequately cool our bodies down.”
– 
Laura Basi, Physical Therapist


How to Get Involved

Look for organized activities in your community that help bridge the gap between individual therapy and daily life.  Here are some examples of upcoming events at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley that present ways for skills to carry over into home, school and the community.

May 6, 2017              
Run for the Kids: Superhero Hustle 5K Run/2 Mile Walk
Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, Villa Park, IL
This superhero themed run/walk is a family-friendly event for all ages and abilities.
Register here

  • Set a goal to run the race, roll or drive the distance in a wheelchair or take a few unassisted steps across the finish line.

    Participants of the Hustle for Health community based therapy program are training to run all 3.1 miles of the race independently.  The Hustle for your Health program began because many children struggled with the 1-mile run in their school P.E. class. A 10-12 week training program is intended to target running pattern and cardiovascular endurance so that participation in community run/walk events becomes a reality.

June 9, 2017              
Golf Outing in Partnership with Freedom Golf Association
Cog Hill Golf & Country Club, Lemont, IL
Enjoy 18 holes of golf and help bring the joy of golf to children with disabilities.
Register here

  • Try something new by learning the game of golf in an adapted golf clinic.

    The golf clinic welcomes children of all abilities to participate in the fun with adapted clubs and equipment and 1:1 training from expert golf coaches from Freedom Golf Association.

    To register for this golf clinic email spike@eastersealsdfvr.org by May 1.

September 17, 2017               
2nd Annual Bike for the Kids
Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, Elgin, IL
Choose a cycling distance ranging from 12 – 100 miles or participate in a 2.5 mile family ride.  Adapted bicycles and trailers welcome!
Register here

  • Go on regular bike rides and train as a family throughout the summer.

All proceeds from these events support infants, children and adults with developmental delays and disabilities at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley. For a complete list of upcoming events visit here.