Exercise Program Helps Pediatric Cancer Survivors Regain Physical Strength, Balance, Encourages Weight Loss

December 20, 2012

There are many health effects that a patient may need to overcome after winning a battle against cancer. Cancer treatments can affect the patient’s balance, agility, coordination, prompt weight gain and other physical ailments. At Nationwide Children’s Hospital, beating cancer doesn’t mark the end of a child’s treatment regimen. A new exercise program at the hospital helps pediatric cancer survivors and those in remission regain both physical strength and confidence.

Play Strong,” a pediatric cancer exercise program in partnership with the Sports Medicine and Oncology teams at Nationwide Children’s, is led by certified athletic trainers. The program was developed for cancer patients, 8-21-years-old, who are off treatment and have clearance from their physician. It is based on functional rehabilitation activities including flexibility, muscle strength, power, balance, agility and functional coordination.

Travis Gallagher, ATC, a certified athletic trainer in Sports Medicine at Nationwide Children’s, was key in implementing the program at the hospital.

“At a patient’s first session, we access their deficits and try to progress from there,” said Gallagher as he explained the goals of the Play Strong program. “We’re usually doing cardiovascular fitness, strength, power, agility and functional movement skills to get their bodies back into the motion of physical activity.”

Play Strong was designed for pediatric and adolescent cancer survivors to improve their motor skills and transition into physical activity safely. The goals are to improve muscle strength and power, balance and agility for better body coordination and self-confidence with all physical activities.

“While the kids have the heart and have the mind to get back into physical activity, once their chemotherapy is over, their bodies sometimes just aren’t ready,” said Randal Olshefski, MD  chief of the Section of Hematology/Oncology/Bone Marrow Transplantation (BMT) at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and also an associate professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “Play Strong is just another example of continuing to break through the barriers. We want the kids, safely, to get back to being as much of a kid as possible.”

Many pediatric cancer survivorship programs across the country encourage their patients to exercise and return to activity after a battle with cancer. But, only a few actually have a structured program similar to Nationwide Children’s.

The program was developed for cancer patients, 8-21-years-old, who are off treatment and have clearance from their physician.

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Watch Travis Gallagher, ATC, certified athletic trainer, explain how Play Strong helps pediatric cancer survivors improve their motor skills and transition into physical activity safety

About Nationwide Children's Hospital

Named to the Top 10 Honor Roll on U.S. News & World Report’s 2019-20 list of “Best Children’s Hospitals,” Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of America’s largest not-for-profit freestanding pediatric health care systems providing wellness, preventive, diagnostic, treatment and rehabilitative care for infants, children and adolescents, as well as adult patients with congenital disease. Nationwide Children’s has a staff of more than 13,000 providing state-of-the-art pediatric care during more than 1.5 million patient visits annually. As home to the Department of Pediatrics of The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Nationwide Children’s physicians train the next generation of pediatricians and pediatric specialists. The Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of the Top 10 National Institutes of Health-funded freestanding pediatric research facilities. More information is available at NationwideChildrens.org.