The Benefits of Exercise for Children with Heart Conditions:
In the past, people with congenital heart diseases have generally been advised not to partake in moderate or vigorous physical activity, due to safety concerns of the unnecessary strain it could put on already strained hearts. However, modern research has suggested otherwise, and that exercise for people with congenital heart diseases can actually have numerous benefits, so long as the patients are screened for it – i.e., a doctor has discussed with them and approved the nature of the exercise and its duration. In fact, ‘exercise training’ has a growing number of supporters for its abilities to improve well-being and cardiovascular health, though this is more for those who have been struck with heart diseases later in life.
The best type of exercise for those with congenital heart diseases comes under the branch of ‘aerobic’ activities: these are designed to increase the heart rate and make the participant breathe heavily: these include sports like, running, basketball, football, etc. ‘Valsalva maneuver’, or activities that cause excessive straining by attempting to exhale forcefully through a closed airway (hence the grunting when weightlifting) can increase muscle strength momentarily but can be very harmful: it causes a dramatic rise in blood pressure, which adds strain to the heart and can increase the pressure in the lungs, applying a force to the chest wall. These types of exercises should obviously be avoided.
However, if the exercise is not too strenuous, and has been approved by a doctor, it could benefit children in the following ways:
-Opportunities to socialise and build team skills
-And (potentially) lead to a stronger and healthier heart
If children are particularly young, and cannot run etc., then suitable activities might include water-based exercise, or things like floor-based play with rolling and the like.
4 years ago I fell into a huge hole, my childs diagnosis was devastating and getting through those first 2 years was so so tough. I honestly thought I would never climb out again, I lived in constant fear and I was sure it would never get better. Life got better but the emotional struggle just didn’t seem to get easier. Then covid came along and lockdowns and I just thought now what! Is this it, will this be the final hit for us but a very special charity did research to see what this meant for our single ventricle children and gave us more and more reassurance as time went on. I realised that I had put us all in a type of lockdown long before covid because I was so scared for so many different reasons. Even when we did venture out I would panic and never relaxed properly.
Today I feel 100% stronger, I do get scared sometimes of course and I will always worry about my children. But I am comfortable with myself, our situation and confident in my very special boy. I have even started to step back a little and let him try new things which would terrify me before and yes he is amazing me all of the time. The diagnosis is scary but what we can do beyond that diagnosis is huge! Life isn’t a diagnosis, it really is what you make of it.
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