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.
But please consult a doctor first!