The Exercise Medicine Program
The Exercise Medicine Program, created within the Labatt Family Heart Centre at The Hospital for Sick Children, represents the first pediatric program in Canada that focuses on physical activity and sport-based recommendations for children with heart disease.
A common misconception is that children with heart disease should not be allowed to exercise or participate in sports as this would harm their heart.
As a result, most children with heart disease scarcely participate in physical activity programs or recreational sports, and end up leading a sedentary life.
Promoting a healthy, active lifestyle early in childhood is the best way to ensure positive outcomes later in life. Taking part in sports and playing with siblings and friends will not only make children physically stronger but also more socially engaged. This will improve the way they look at their life and improve their self-esteem.
An active child is an empowered child.
Alex, 9 years old
I like playing sports and being active all the time. I play basketball, baseball, and I ran cross-country at school. I also go to CrossFit, and have done yoga and golf. I like running around and playing at recess with my friends. Being active makes me feel happy, and I’m always excited to try new things.
“The Exercise Medicine program has helped me to feel more confident when I play sports or do activities because at my latest exercise tolerance test, they told me that I had improved since the first time. That made me feel very proud of myself, and I know that I am getting stronger. The program helps me to eat healthier, think about my habits like screen time and bedtime, and I think I have a better lifestyle now.”
If other kids like me are afraid of getting active I think this program would be good for them because it might help them get over their fears and realize that being active is fun and it is really an amazing thing. I love this program! It’s been fun and helpful!
Aaron Baboolal, 23 years old
I was born with a congenital heart defect called HLHS (Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome) and I was given a 1% chance of survival. Basically, my Left Ventricle never fully developed when I was in utero and it essentially means I have a half-functioning heart in my body. Four open heart surgeries later, I was gifted the rare opportunity to live my life to its full physical potential. From a very young age, I enjoyed playing sports and was always extremely active – when I turned 13, I became a goalie for Ice Hockey and played Field Lacrosse in high school. I continue to play in goal to this day.
“I have become a strong and healthy person today because of three main reasons : the incredible support of my family, my commitment to engage in physical activity, and a knowledgeable and committed team of doctors and nurses that never gave up on me”
Being active is a very important part of a growing child’s development and is a big factor in determining if that child will maintain an active lifestyle when they become adults. I am a great example of that.
Aaron says “Yes, I have HLHS but that does not stop me from living my life to the fullest – most people I meet would never know I have a heart condition and I am happy to keep it that way!“