Children with cerebral palsy and other developmental conditions are less likely than their peers to be physically active because of personal, family, social, organizational and environmental barriers. As a result, children with developmental conditions are at greater risk for obesity and chronic health conditions later in life.
For the past two years, Shriners Hospitals for Children — Springfield has incorporated power-based cycling and exercise programs into the hospital’s community programs. BFit is an individually mentored exercise program developed at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Springfield for children with physical disabilities, focusing on fast movements to build strength, power and self-esteem. Twenty-one children participated in this fall’s exercise program held twice weekly for 12 weeks for patients ages 5 to 18 with a neuromuscular issue, in an effort to improve physical and social function.
Each 90-minute session featured a dynamic group warm-up to high-energy music and 60 minutes of exercise in more than 30 exercise stations customized for children with physical disabilities. The stations included scooter board races, boxing, ball throwing, jumping and other activities that build strength and power. Each session concluded with a group cool down session.
One-on-one coaching that included safety and encouragement was provided by employee volunteers and physical therapy and exercise science students from the University of Hartford, Springfield College, American International College and the University of Massachusetts.
“Shriners Hospitals for Children is the only place my son comes where he does not feel different,” commented the mother of a program participant. “BFit is testimony to the care and dedication Shriners Hospital provides to each and every child who comes through the door.”