How Exercise Helps Children With Birth Defects

When I share studies with you about the value of exercise for your kids, the "big picture" message here is to get them moving in hopes of taming the epidemic of childhood obesity that's spreading all over America. Those benefits also extend to children with congenital heart disease, according to new research.

Scientists studied the beneficial effect of hour-long exercise sessions -- stretching, light weight resistance and aerobics -- twice a week on 19 children, ages 8-17, for 12 weeks. Of the 16 patients who finished the study, all had previously endured heart surgery or a nonsurgical procedure and 11 had only one functioning ventricle.

In every case save one, the physical health of patients improved significantly in terms of peak work rate, oxygen consumption or both. Safety devices were always on hand to help them in the event of an emergency, but were never needed.

Just more evidence, exercise should be viewed as a drug that needs to be prescribed precisely to do the most amount of good.

A funny sidenote: Punching the doctor was one specific activity young patients enjoyed.

Pediatrics, Vol. 116, No. 6, December 2005: 1339-1345

EurekAlert December 5, 2005

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