It's a clearly established medical fact that ALL children must have regular exercise to stay fit and healthy. Load bearing on bones is a vital factor in normal bone growth and development. If the bones and muscles aren't subjected to load bearing activities, they atrophy or simply don't develop properly. Resulting in problems like weak ankles, floppy knee joints and underdeveloped hips can be impossible to reverse and lead to major problems with all gross motor functions including things as simple as walking properly. Normal children gets heaps of daily exercise just by doing what comes naturally - like squatting down and getting up again a few dozen times, walking up and down steps, jogging around the school playground, even just playing in the garden. In addition, they often are involved in formal sporting activities.
But for children with disabilities this is generally not the case. For them, getting enough exercise presents a major challenge. They may find even the most simple physical activities impossible to achieve without assistance. If they are lucky, they might attend a physiotherapy session once a week for an hour - hardly enough to make any difference at all to their physical well-being, strength and stamina. The brunt of the responsibility for "exercising" the child usually fails on the family (typically, the mother). That's great if you can find several hours a day to sit, stand, walk, roll, stretch, squat and play with your child, day after day, week after week, year after year.
Sadly, none of us are superhuman and so the reality is that no one can perform this superhuman task. Parents need to do their best to balance their child's therapy needs with the needs of other children in the family, working responsibilities, housework, shopping, gardening and the thousand things that need to be attended to an a regular basis.
Where does this leave the child with a disability - particularly a child with physical disabilities? In general, with a grossly underdeveloped, and sometimes deformed skeletal structure. Bones are small and weak, joints are badly formed, tendons and ligaments are either abnormally tight or abnormally floppy, bone density is low, strength and stamina may be nonexistent.
So what can you do? Given that mum and dad can't provide hours of therapy a day and our school and health systems certainly can't provide the support needed to help children with disabilities get enough exercise, what might a possible solution be? Parents and therapists need to find as many ways as possible to help a child exercise in as independent a way as possible - something that is fun, that doesn't socially isolate or ostracise the child that is relatively safe and that will build, muscles and bones.
There are quite a few good ideas that meet these criteria - swimming, trampolining and bike riding are three of the best. I believe bike riding to be the best of these three options, as it meets all of the criteria and can be done almost anywhere, at anytime time with little or no supervision.
My child is no different from every other child who wants and loves their bike so encouraging him to ride is easy. In fact getting him off can be a "welcome" problem. Bike riding is a social activity getting him out with other children happily enjoying this fresh air activity.
Tricycles can be built to suit people from preschool age right up to large adults. Feet can be secured to pedals with foot straps and seat harnesses can be fitted if necessary. You can add a carry basket at the front or rear to take toys, schoolbooks or groceries. Bikes can even be driven using hand pedals if necessary.
We chose a Recumbent bike offering a distinct advantage for children and adults with a poor sense of balance as they have a lower centre of gravity and are almost impossible to tip over. The are also easier to pedal.
Parent of a child with a Disability