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New guidelines to support disabled children to be more active

Disabled children and young people will be supported to be more physically active following the publication of new guidelines from the UK Chief Medical Officers (CMOs).

The guidance, which recommends daily levels of physical activity, will support disabled children and young people to improve their physical and mental health throughout their lives.

The guidelines are underpinned by research from Durham University, University of Bristol and Disabilities Rights UK, and the infographic they are presented in is the first of its kind to be co-produced with disabled children, young people and their families.

The new guidelines recommend disabled children and young people:

  • undertake 120 to 180 minutes of aerobic physical activity per week at a moderate-to-vigorous intensity – this can be achieved in different ways (for example, 20 minutes per day or 40 minutes 3 times per week) through activities such as walking or cycling
  • complete challenging, but manageable, strength and balance activities 3 times per week which are particularly beneficial for muscle strength and motor skills – for example, indoor wall climbing, yoga, and modified sports such as basketball or football
  • when first starting to exercise, build up slowly to avoid injury
  • break down their exercise into bite-size chunks of physical activity throughout the day to make it more manageable

Regular physical activity has physical and mental health benefits for people of all ages. However, children and young people with disabilities are less likely to be active than non-disabled children, which can lead to health disparities, and these may widen as they become older.

The evidence found physical activity can be equally beneficial for disabled children and young people as non-disabled children, tackling misinformation about the risk. Ensuring children and young people, regardless of their disability status, are as physically active as possible is crucial to their health and wellbeing – both now and in the long term.

Specific benefits that disabled children and young people can gain from physical activity include improved confidence and concentration, meeting new people and stronger muscles and improved motor strength.

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