I talked about the fact my older daughter worries I might actually live until I’m 105 in my latest Additional Money Blog. After the look of horror faded from her face – and my laughter at her dismay stopped – I then started to think about some of the things I might need to do to make that happen.
Exercise is the most obvious starting point. But as I thought about this, it occurred to me how difficult it sometimes is to find opportunities to exercise, and this is especially the case for young people with additional needs. Many times on our Podcasts parents have talked about how sport is important to their children in not only keeping them fit but also in maintaining friendships. The problems seem to come later in their teens when the gap widens with their peers and they simple don’t have the same level of skills as their team mates. Sometimes, as in my daughter’s case, it can be poor motor skills that create barriers to participation in team sports.
But this doesn’t mean that exercise should just become something that cannot be done. The obvious, the cheapest, and the one recommended by all professionals is walking. To school for example. We are lucky enough to live within walking distance to school so each morning and evening (weather allowing) we brave the outdoors. My daughter always seems to find a new way of saying, usually in a sarcastic tone, there’s a working mechanically sound car sitting on the driveway, why don’t we use that? She’s not convinced when I say the walk will do you good. But we do it every day and it is starting to become a habit – a not welcome habit as yet.
Another easy participation activity is cycling. This is a great activity because it gives a real sense of independence and get’s the heart pumping in a way that walking doesn’t. Cycling can be a fun thing for the whole family to do at the weekend, but it does need that one ingredient: the ability to ride. We struggled with this, and in the Free download 9 Steps to Ride a Bike I explained the process we went through to take our daughter, who has balance issues, to the point where she is able to cycle on her own. It took time but it was worth it as she now not only rides faster than the rest of us she genuinely enjoys the sport.
For those of you who are having difficulty teaching your child how to cycle, I can relate to your frustrations. With swimming, the last of the easy to access forms of exercise, we have had the same on-going challenges for to many years to recall. Our daughter has been through numerous swimming coaches – all who have promised “three, five or ten sessions with me and she’ll be swimming” – and she still doesn’t swim. Recently, I guess because my daughter trusts me due to the cycling, she asked me, “Will you teach me to swim when I’m older.” I wasn’t quite sure by what she meant by older so I suggested as we were near a pool (on holiday) and had time why didn’t we start right now. After some time she decided that she hadn’t got quite old enough just yet so maybe we would do it next year. I’m still not quite sure how older is being defined, but we’ve waited this long another year won’t matter.
The real point, though, is exercise is something we all need to do to remain healthy. My daughter especially needs to remember that every time we leave the car on the driveway. Like most things, as she gets better at it, she learns to enjoy it. And the wider benefit of exercise is the endorphins released during the process makes us feel happier, and so benefits our mental health as well as physical health. And like any parent all I want is for my children to be healthy and happy.