As pediatricians, we spend a good amount of each well child visit talking about how important exercise is. We try to share tips on how to get your kids outside and away from the oh-so-enticing phone/TV/computer screens. To really drive the point home, every exam room in our clinic has a poster about the 5 – 2 – 1 – 0 rule:
5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day
2 hours or less of screen time
1 hour of physical activity per day
0 sugary beverages or treats
The kids really seem to understand these recommendations when they see them laid out with pictures, but for many families it can be tough to find ways that work well to get 1 hour of strenuous physical activity in each day. Weather can play a big role, and so can access to playgrounds and green spaces. Vacations from school mean there is no scheduled physical education and possibly no sports practices.
This can be even more challenging for families with children with special needs where physical or noise limitations might exclude certain types of activities. All of our patients and families (and our staff!) could benefit from a healthier lifestyle!! Because of my particular interest in children with special needs, I have put together a list of activities and destinations that may help your child or family get some exercise while accommodating a variety of unique situations:
- Hawthorne Park in the Heights is newly accessible and offers a wading pool as well. It has many play structures that accommodate children with physical disabilities and also has a small igloo-like structure for children needing a quiet space like those with an autism spectrum disorder.
- Wild Bill Lake trail in the Custer Gallatin National Forest near Red Lodge offers wheelchair fishing. There are 2 wheelchair accessible fishing docks, as well as wheelchair accessible picnic tables and toilets.
- Matthew’s Recreation Area near Miles City has paved walkways and a wheelchair accessible dock for fishing.
- Get Air in Billings offers accommodations for children with special needs including a low stimulation environment and extra staff support for those with physical disabilities. Their website requests caregivers call to discuss their needs with staff.
- Optimist International Children’s Camp outside Red Lodge, MT is for children with special healthcare needs (http://optimistchildrenscamp.org/)
- Eagle Mount offers year-round recreational opportunities to children and adults with a physical or cognitive/intellectual disability. Programs include golf, swim lessons, cycling, equestrian, Youth Summer Day Camp, skiing/snowboarding.
- Wheels Across Montana (WAM) provides adaptive trikes and biking equipment to Montanans living with disabilities.
- Special Olympics Young Athletes Programs for children with and without special needs includes bowling, basketball, and participation in the Big Sky State Games.
- Camp Eureka offers a camp-based setting for children with visual impairments in Missoula.
- Bitterroot Therapeutic Riding in Corvalis offers regular horse riding therapies for children of varying abilities.
Exercise is a wonderful way to release excess energy, get your blood flowing and spend time with friends and family. It can help boost children’s confidence in themselves and teach them ways to engage socially. Let’s all get moving!