Children with cardiomyopathy may face some restrictions to their physical activity. The level of restriction will depend on several factors such as the type of cardiomyopathy diagnosed, family history, age of the child and severity of the disease.
Physical Activity Restrictions
Children with mild cardiomyopathy may not have major restrictions on their activities and can lead a relatively normal life. In these cases, most cardiovascular exercise is acceptable and actually encouraged to help strengthen the heart, reduce stress and boost energy levels. Non-competitive recreational sports and moderate exercise are usually considered safe but should be approved by your child’s cardiologist. Activities that should be avoided are those where there is a chance of overexertion or where the heart may be put under excessive strain. For older children, these include isometric exercise (i.e. weight lifting), competitive team sports (football, soccer, basketball), high impact or strenuous sports (skiing, boxing, racquetball) and intense water sports. The American Heart Association has published a scientific statement on physical activity restrictions, titled Recommendations for Physical Activity and Recreational Sports Participation for Young Patients with Genetic Cardiovascular Diseases. If you are unsure of whether your child can participate in a sport, it is best to check with your child's cardiologist first.
Working with the School
Whether your child should participate in physical education (gym) classes or school sports will depend on your child's condition. It may be possible for the school nurse to work with the physical education department to develop an individualized program that includes gym exercises but excludes intense or competitive sports. Whether your child should participate in physical education (gym) classes or school sports will depend on your child's condition. It may be possible for the school nurse to work with the physical education department to develop an individualized program that includes gym exercises but excludes intense or competitive sports. CCF offers a Cardiomyopathy School Resource Kit that provides guidelines on how to develop a health and education plan to address a child's physical activity restrictions.
Physical activity or sports restrictions may be especially difficult for an older child with cardiomyopathy to accept, especially if competitive sports played a large role in the child’s life before diagnosis. You may need to encourage your child to develop new interests and find other recreational activities for the family to participate in. Children who were involved in sports before their diagnosis should be encouraged to maintain their relationships with former team members and be involved in the sport in a non-competitive manner such as managing the team or assisting the coach.