Disabled children should exercise for 20 minutes a day, according to the latest physical activity guidelines from the UK Chief Medical Officers (CMOs).
Using research from the University of Durham’s Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences, the University of Bristol, and Disabilities Rights UK, they determined disabled young people should undertake between 120 and 180 minutes of aerobic physical activity every week.
For instance, they could walk for 20 minutes a day, or take part in a more vigorous activity, such as cycling, for 40 minutes three times a week.
The CMOs, Professor Sir Chris Whitty, Professor Sir Michael McBride, Professor Sir Gregor Smith and Sir Frank Atherton stated having regular exercise will have important mental health benefits. As children with disabilities are less likely to partake in physical activities, they can suffer from other health implications as they get older.
Professor Brett Smith, director of research at the Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences at Durham University, stated: “The scientific evidence is clear that physical activity is safe and has multiple health benefits for disabled children and disabled young people.”
As well as the usual benefits of being active, such as strengthening bones, reducing risk of major illnesses, lowering chances of early death by 30 per cent, and boosting mood, sleep and self-esteem, there are some additional advantages for those with disabilities.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this includes improving their stamina and muscle strength, controlling joint swelling and arthritis pain, lowering blood pressure in people with hypertension, and reducing anxiety and depression in those who find their disability a struggle.
The new guidelines suggest taking part in moderate to vigorous activities, building up stamina slowly to avoid the chance of injury. The CMOs recommend doing strength and balance exercises three times a week, such as yoga or wall climbing. These are designed to build muscle strength and improve motor skills.
For those who are new to exercise, it is wise to break down workouts into smaller, more manageable chunks, first, instead of throwing themselves into 40 minutes of intense exercise. This will reduce injuries and muscle fatigue, and maintain their motivation to carry on exercising.
Commenting on the guidelines, chief executive officer of Disability Rights UK Kamran Mallick said: “This is an essential resource to demonstrate the health benefits disabled children and young people can achieve through regular physical activity.”
The government has aimed to prioritise access to physical education, school sport and physical activity for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) since 2013.
Last September, the Department for Education announced funding of £900,000 over three years will be put towards the Inclusion 2024 programme. This investment hopes to improve provision of PE for more than 150,000 young people with SEND by giving training, advice and guidance to 5,000 schools in the UK. As part of this, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games-inspired sport programmes will be available in every county.
It is also essential disabled children feel comfortable and better able to manage their condition in their own home. That is why fitting a walk-in bath and shower could be the ideal solution, helping them freshen up after a challenging workout.