Perhaps the most important thing to know about exercise for children with arthritis is that it does no harm. They can exercise and should.
Benefits of the old adage that exercise is “good for us,” can be even greater for children with arthritis – as can the downsides of being physically inactive. That’s why it’s especially vital for children with arthritis to keep their bodies moving. Studies show that kids with arthritis are deconditioned (a state of prolonged underuse of muscles, which may trigger a cycle of increasing disability) compared to their healthy counterparts.
Specifically, they have less muscle strength and muscle endurance. They also have decreased aerobic capacity (needed for prolonged exercise) and anaerobic capacity (needed to perform intense bursts of activity). This results in them tiring quicker during physical activity than kids who don’t have arthritis. These effects can be felt even when the disease is inactive.
Medications may soothe arthritis pain, but if you don’t exercise, you’re never going to increase your strength and, therefore, your function. Most types of moderate, low-impact exercise are helpful, but experts especially recommend strength-training, stretching, and water workouts.
But allow your child to discover what best suits them. Try low-impact exercises first then move on from there. Or allow them to try what they think they can do and work back from there. One of the best ways to help your child with arthritis become – and stay – active is to get your whole family to buy into exercise. Kids with arthritis often feel different because of their disease. If they’re exercising solo at home, they’ll again feel like the odd one out. So getting the whole family moving should improve the likelihood of your child participating because it is a group effort.
For stretching exercises have a look at the Essentials as an introduction to the Stretch for Life program.