(RxWiki News) Childhood obesity is a common problem for many children with special needs. Both an unhealthy diet and a lack of exercise contribute to this problem. Parents may be able to change at least one of those unhealthy habits by setting a good example.
A recent study showed that children with special needs were more likely to exercise if their parents exercised at least three hours a week, compared to children with less active parents.
This study also highlighted some of the things that can get in the way of exercise for these families, such as lack of recreational programs that are appropriate for children with special needs.
"Plan daily physical activity with your family."
Shahram Yazdani, MD, from the David Geffen School of Medicine of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and colleagues conducted this study to find what makes it harder for special needs kids to get exercise.
The researchers surveyed parents of special needs children at a school which taught students from kindergarten to 12th grade.
The surveys were given from October 2010 to April 2011 in Los Angeles.
The survey asked the parents 25 questions. The questions were about their children's exercise habits, as well as the parent's exercise habits. The parents also answered questions about any barriers to exercise.
In this study, a barrier was anything that made it harder to get exercise.
The parents surveyed reported several types of barriers to their child exercising:
- Child is not interested (43 percent).
- There are no appropriate programs (33 percent).
- Child has behavioral problems (32 percent).
- Parents don't have enough time (29 percent).
Approximately half of the children and parents in the study were physically active less than three hours per week.
The researcher's found that the children with parents who exercised at least three hours a week were over four times as likely to be physically active when compared to children with less active parents.
The parents also reported on the type of special needs their child had:
- 45 percent of the children in the study were diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- 38 percent of the children had autism.
- 34 percent of children had a learning disability.
The authors noted that their study was limited by the small number of participants and the fact that they gathered the information from participants from one location.
Additionally, the researchers said that using information provided by the parents may have been less reliable than getting information through observation.
The research was published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The research received no outside funding and the authors reported no conflicts of interest.