As children are returning to school they will also resume participation in physical activity. However, the choice of the type of sport to practice is not only based on personal preference. Some chronic conditions like diabetes, asthma, hyperactivity, congenital heart disease or cancer (which overall affect 1 in 200 children in the 0-16 years age range) risk preventing children from participating in regular physical activity. Those children stand to gain significant benefits from regular participation in physical activities and sport. Exercise, irrespective of health, represents a physiological need in children and adolescents: it is an integral part of their growth from the early stages of development both, physically and a psychologically. Please see these recommendations which would facilitate the choice of the right sport for your child.
Physical activity reduces the metabolic risk, cardiovascular risk and increases baseline metabolic rate. Exercise reduces the risk of obesity, improves body composition (lean/fat content), reduces the static and dynamic load on the lower limbs joints. Exercise improves aerobic fitness and increases muscle mass. Exercise improves mineral bone density. Exercise improves self confidence and dexterity and improves social group interactions in a group. Exercise reduces the risk of addictions (children who are used to self-injecting are at a higher risk of addictions).
Physical training has proven to improve exercise capacity and tolerance and to reduce wheezing episodes. Exercise is protective against asthma: the risk of adolescents developing asthma in the following 10 years is inversely related to the level of physical activity which is undertaken regularly. Regular exercise improves management of asthma.
Attention deficits disorders (ADHD)
Regular participation in sports improves self-esteem and wellbeing, reduces the chronic state of agitation, promotes learning and improves insomnia. Sport can also lead to emotional development, with feelings like frustration for a defeat or happiness for a victory being experienced that can lead to a better understanding and control of one’s emotions. Sports which require continuous participation should be favoured compared to sports that have long periods of inactivity during which concentration can drop. Martial arts are preferred by children with ADHD and this choice is supported by specialists as, in the paediatric age group, they do not comprise violent or dangerous movements.
Congenital heart disease (CHD)
Participation in regular physical activity leads to a lower incidence of obesity and future cardiovascular events (myocardial infarction and stroke). Regular exercise leads to a significant improvement in exercise capacity and dexterity. In children with CHD, the exercise prescription should be bespoke, taking into account the unique aspects of every child, including the type of CHD, the type of surgery received, the result of the surgery and the specific individual preference of the child. An exercise test is invaluable help in creating an exercise prescription which is tailored on the individual circumstances and exercise responses of the child.
Children with cancer
Regular exercise increases the muscular tone and joint mobility. Exercise also increases bone density. Regular exercise can lead to improved confidence and increased feeling of autonomy both from a physical and from a psychological point of view. Participation in exercise engages the public opinion and healthy children’s attention to their less lucky peers and promotes integration and cooperation. Both individual and group sports are recommended. Swimming is a good option, except in those children who are at higher risk of infections. Gymnastics and athletics are also good choices.