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Exercise for adults and children with Spina Bifida

Exercise is important for people with Spina Bifida because it increases their ability to live an independent, high-quality life. In general, exercise strengthens muscles and bones, helps maintain a healthy mood and weight, and reduces the risk of heart diseases, diabetes, hypertension, and certain cancers. 

According to the US department of health & human services, adults should engage in 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobics. Adults should also engage in muscle-strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups for 2 days a week. 

Children and teens age 6-17 should engage in moderate to vigours aerobic exercise 60 minutes a day, which should include muscle strengthing and bone-strengthening activities 3 days a week. And children age 3-5 should engage in physical activity throughout the day. 

For people with Spina Bifida, engaging in exercise can be a little more complicated but important nonetheless. Here are some tips to get you started. 

Consult your doctor before you start

Since Spina Bifida affects each person differently, there’re specific things each individual can or cannot do. Not everyone is in an ideal condition to workout. Inform your doctor about your plan and ask them which types of exercise suit you and what you should be beware of. Communicate with your doctor if anything feels wrong during your workout.

When looking for a personal trainer, make sure they are qualified 

If you have a disability as the result of Spina Bifida, you can look for an ACSM/NCHPAD certified inclusive fitness trainer. This kind of trainer is specially qualified to train people challenged with disabilities. Talk to your trainer about your situation, ask questions to make sure they’re qualified, and build a personalized training routine together. 

Join a local sports team of people with similar conditions

If you want to combine working out with a support group, find out if there are any local sports team formed by people who have similar conditions. If you’re disabled, you can also see if your local gym offers classes for disabled people. 

Use caution when exercising on your own 

When working out on your own, take caution according to your doctor’s advice. You can also search online for tips and advice given by qualified individuals (doctors, certified trainers, etc). If something feels wrong while exercising, stop and consult your doctor. If you have injured yourself severely, seek urgent care as necessary.  

For parents supervising children with Spina Bifida, here are some advice given by The Sydney’s children of Hospital Network:

  • Children with poor walking balance can use wheelchairs to participate in sports. 
  • Children with Spina Bifida may not have normal sensations, so beware of hot and rough surfaces as they cause burns and abrasions.
  • Avoid contact sports such as football.
  • For children with shunts, avoid activity such as rolling and jumping from heights. 

The above advice may also be applicable to adults with similar conditions. 

Beware of latex allergies

According to the Spina Bifida Association, people with the condition are at high risk of having latex allergy. Since latex allergy often develops with the culmination of multiple exposures, avoid touching latex products such as latex sports bands when exercising and look out for symptoms of allergy.

Some signs of allergy include:

  • Itching
  • Redness, hives or rashes of the skin, 
  • Coughing, sneezing, runny nose
  • Watery, itchy eyes
  • Asthma symptoms, wheezing, and shortness of breath
  • hoarse, scratchy throat.

In rare cases, people can go into anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition that causes severe breathing difficulties and cardiac arrest. 

Exercise is essential for those who want to live an independent and high-quality life. Hopefully, this article has helped you jumpstart your fitness journey. Please be advised that this article does not substitute nor serve as formal medical advice. 

If you use intermittent catheters, CompactCath’s catheters can fit seamlessly into any active lifestyle 

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For those who go to work, travel, or exercise, carrying around bulky catheters is a huge hassle. CompactCath’s catheters are pocket-sized, light-weight, latex-free, and discreetly designed. They are also no-touch and pre-lubricated with antibacterial silicone oil for hygiene and convenience. 

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