Little hearts, big ambition

Children’s exercise toolkits

Based on research funded by Heart Research UK, we realised that children with congenital heart disease are often discouraged from physical activity. Unfortunately, these children are also more at risk of developing cardiovascular disease in later life, particularly when considering an inactive lifestyle.

We worked with teams of medical professionals, academics and patient groups to create exercise prescription toolkits. They contain information on why being active is especially important for people with a heart condition, signs and symptoms to look out for, questions you should be asking your cardiologist and much more.

Our Helping Little Hearts programme gives young heart patients across the UK their very own personalised exercise prescription developed with their consultant, so that they can improve their condition at their own speed whilst having fun.

Toolkits have now been distributed in 95% of paediatric services throughout the UK, including Great Ormond Street hospital.
Young heart patients across the UK now have their very own exercise prescription.

The toolkit was written by Lucy Gowing BSc MSc and Richard Horn BSc MSc, Heart Research UK Associate Research Fellows at the Children’s Health and Exercise Research Centre, University of Exeter, with a grant from Heart Research UK.

This Toolkit was verified by Dr Graham Stuart MBChB FRCP FRCPCH Consultant Cardiologist at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children and Professor Craig Williams MSc PhD FACSM FBASES, Professor of Paediatric Physiology and Health at the University of Exeter.

Virtual reality project

One in five children in reception and one in three in year six are overweight or obese. This is due to an increasingly poor diet and low levels of physical activity. Children’s consumption of added or processed sugars significantly exceeds the maximum recommended level and less than a quarter of 5-15-year-olds achieve the recommended levels of physical activity.

Obesity is linked to a wide range of diseases, including heart disease and increases the risk of ill health and premature death in adulthood. It also has an emotional and behavioral impact, increasing the risk of bullying and low self-esteem and resulting in higher levels of school absences.
There is a clear need for new ways to teach young people about the dangers of fast food and low levels of exercise. Virtual reality (VR) is currently at the cutting edge of technology and this project will engage and educate children in a way that perhaps traditional teaching methods cannot.

The education platform combines document exchange, course bookings and learning modules using VR, augmented reality and 360° video. Quality content is at the core, training will stream in high-quality resolution and allow students to pan the camera around, zoom into content and interact with the environment.

Future projects

We are continually looking to the future and more innovative ways of supporting babies and children through our research. We will keep you informed as new projects and research grants emerge.

Heart Research UK has developed an online resource full of ideas and advice to support children and adults with congenital heart disease to exercise. You can also order your toolkit by filling in your details on our dedicated website. Find out more at