Obesity: A Growing Concern for Special Needs Kids

Research clearly indicates that children who lead non-active lifestyles are more likely to suffer from obesity. Children who are challenged with a physical disability such as Cerebral Palsy and those confined to a wheel chair are often at risk for weight gain and have a greater propensity toward obesity.

St. Mary’s cares for a growing number of overweight and obese children in our inpatient, home, and community programs. These children are challenged with secondary conditions including orthopaedic issues, diabetes, cardiac conditions, asthma, and sleep disorders. Our holistic approach to caring for our young patients incorporates effective physical activity, nutrition counseling, and behavioral therapy within the child’s treatment plan.

Wiienforcement: Using video games as effective weight loss tools

St. Mary’s has found a way to put screen time to good use. St. Mary’s Behavioral Health and Rehabilitation team led by LeeAnne Bonnet, PhD, and John Paul Rincon, PT, conducted the first-ever study on the effectiveness of the Nintendo Wii Fit video game on the cardiovascular impact and motivation of children with special needs.

Unlike other video games, the Nintendo Wii’s motion-sensitivity and unique interactive controls allow the player to mimic real life movements and motions. The Wii Fit includes forty activities, broken into four general categories, strength training, aerobics, yoga, and balance games, each of which encourage and promote focused exercises and consistent training. During the eight week study, children were given the choice of exercising on the treadmill or playing the Wii Fit video game for 30 minutes each session with the support and observation of a therapist.

The results: The Wii Fit and treadmill were both effective in elevating the children’s heart rates above baseline. However, children showed greater adherence to their therapy regime (less therapy refusal, less delay to therapy, and more time on task) and were more likely to challenge themselves when using the Wii than during traditional treadmill exercise sessions.

Learn more about St. Mary’s use of Nintendo Wii in rehabilitation.