Children's Health and Exercise

Research theme: Cardiovascular health


Investigating the use of physical activity participation and exercise training in children with congenital heart defects. Most children with a surgically corrected heart defect have near normal exercise tolerance and could safely participate in competitive sport. Individuals with more complex structural defects may have significantly reduced exercise tolerance and functioning, but would still benefit from participating in physical activity in a recreational environment. However, evidence suggests that many children are underactive due to self-perceptions and parental anxiety.

Current projects

Currently, we are engaged in a project funded by the Leeds-based charity Heart Research UK, with the main objective of developing a comprehensive set of advice and recommendations to enable children with a heart defect to safely engage in sports and other physical activities. An exercise ‘prescription‘ toolkit is currently being piloted in hospitals nationwide, including Exeter and Leeds. This ‘toolkit‘ includes interactive resources for youngsters, their parents/carers and schools. Importantly, each youngster will receive their own bespoke 'exercise prescription'  form; detailing what level and type of activities are suitable for them. This will provide their parents, school and themselves with the confidence to participate and enjoy regular physical activity; greatly improving their long-term health and well-being. Find out more about the Helping Little Hearts project.