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‘Exercise as medicine’ set to change the lives of WA children

It’s been said that exercise is the best medicine and we’re putting our support behind a ground-breaking program that is putting this theory to the test.

One in five Australian children lives with a chronic disease and they often face barriers to participating in physical activity, which is vital to a child’s development.  Move to improve is Australia’s first purpose-built clinical exercise service from Perth Children’s Hospital that will prescribe personalised physical exercise and health promotion advice as part of routine care.

This research project has been made possible through funding from Stan Perron Charitable Foundation and Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation, with Mineral Resources contributing $1 million to the project over the next four years as Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation’s Principal Partner of Move to Improve.

Mineral Resources Psychologist and Head of Mental Health, Chris Harris, said the business was committed to supporting initiatives that build healthier, happier communities, with physical and mental wellbeing a key focus.

“Move to Improve has the potential to make a life-changing difference to children with chronic diseases and Mineral Resources is proud to provide support to this ground-breaking program,” Chris said.

Perth Children’s Hospital Head of Endocrinology and Co-Lead of Move to Improve, Professor Liz Davis, said exercise had enormous benefits not only for mental and physical health, but helped re-engage confidence and connection.

Photo: Mary Rogers with Perth Children’s Hospital Head of Endocrinology and Co-Lead of Move to Improve, Professor Liz Davis 

Regular physical activity is vital to a child’s physical and functional development. However, many children with chronic disease face significant barriers to the healing powers of physical activity, such as low confidence and self-esteem, lack of access to appropriate physical activity providers and fear of how to manage their health condition in front of peers.

A less active lifestyle can have serious long-term health consequences, putting children at increased risk of developing other chronic conditions such as obesity, heart disease, stroke or depression. Children living with chronic disease have a two to three times greater risk of developing a mental health disorder than their physically healthy peers.

Nine-year-old Mary Rogers has already experienced the life-changing benefits of exercise as therapy.

Mary took part in a pilot study exploring the effectiveness of surfing in a multi-pronged approach to care, which has now led to a larger surfing intervention program as part of Move to Improve.

“When I’m out in the water and I’m surfing, I feel like I’m more free. My body feels stronger, more in control of things,” said Mary, who has cystic fibrosis.

“When I have freedom, I feel like I can be myself and when I can be myself, I can be most happy.”

The Move to Improve project will be completed over five years and will initially include 100 children aged 5-18 years living with one of four chronic conditions – type 1 diabetes, cancer, burns and cerebral palsy.