Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant
Helping Your Child Stay Active During and After Treatment

Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant

Helping Your Child Stay Active During and After Treatment

About BMI

Learn about BMI from the Center for Disease Control


UW Health Services

Pediatric Fitness

Exercise has been shown to help manage weight, combat chronic diseases, boost your energy levels and even improve your mood. 

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that obesity is a serious health concern for children and adolescents. Prevalence of childhood obesity has increased significantly from 1980 to 2006. Surveys found for children aged 2-5 years the prevalence has increased from 5.0 percent to 12.4 percent, for those aged 6-11 years from 6.5 percent to 17.0 percent, and for those aged 12-19 from 5.0 percent to 17.6 percent. 

How do you know if your child is overweight or obese?

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a number calculated from the child's weight and height. BMI is a reliable indicator of body fatness for most children and teens. For children and teens, BMI is age and sex-specific and is often referred to as BMI-for-age. The CDC provides a BMI-for-age calculator so you can measure your child's BMI at any time from home. The CDC BMI information can be found using the following link. 

The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend the use of BMI to screen for overweight and obesity in children beginning at 2 years old. BMI should be discussed with your child's physician.

How can I help my child manage his/her weight during and after treatment?

Weight management is all about calories in verses calories out. Therefore proper nutrition is just as important as exercise and physical activity. Please speak with a licenced nutritionist and your care provider about a healthy diet for your child. 

During Treatment 

Exercise and physical activity at this time can be hard due to long stays at the hospital as well as the multiple side effects from the chemotherapy and/or radiation. Research has shown that exercise is not only safe during treatment but can also improve physical functioning and quality of life. 

To keep your child safe follow these simple rules:

  1. Know your child's platelet count prior to engaging any heavy lifting activities. The following handouts of recommended activities are typically given out by the physical or occupational therapist during the first admission for your child's treatment:
  2. Talk to your doctor about what is safe and what is not. Anything that does not move you faster than your feet is typically safe. Higher speed activities can also be done safely with the appropriate protective gear and supervision, i.e. biking.
  3. Take the "bad days" off. Continue to encourage your child to get up and move around the house on those "bad days" but limit any higher level exercises. 
  4. Do something everyday. Even if that means just bed exercises. 
Can't Get Out of Bed

Feeling Lousy

(Platelets <20)

Feel Pretty Good

(Platelets <50) 

Having a Great Day

(Platelets >50)

Help your child keep his/her legs moving by doing bicycle motions with their legs. Make it a game about where you would like to bike to if you could.


Bring activities to the bedside to keep arms moving like playdough, puzzles, games.

Encourage active range of motion for your child's arms/legs: lift arms over head, bend down and touch your toes


Self-care (taking a shower/getting dressed)


Shooting Hoops with a Nerf ball


Anything that is lifting only your body weight

Lunges, squats and sit-ups. Do them with your child and compete for fun.


Wall push ups: who can get their nose the closest without hitting the wall

Go outside and kick a ball around. Make a family soccer game with rules and goals.


Go for a family bike ride. Helmets for all.


Go on long walks.


Turn on some music get everyone up and dancing


Safe to lift over 10 pounds

After Treatment 

Now is the time to get back to your old routines or start new even better ones. Remember that daily physical acitivity is the way get all those benefits from exercise.

  1. Slowly work towards 60 minutes of activity daily. Start with easier activities and progress to more challenging ones. Remember that 60 minutes does not have to be all at once. 
  2. Make it a family committement for everyone to be involved in. Do not just focus on what your child needs to do to get his/her energy back. Make it fun and include the whole family.
  3. Keep a family exercise log and calendar. Mark off days when the whole family will go out and do something, like bowling. Keep track of what is happening weekly to keep you moving and on track. 
  4. Set family goals and celebrate when they are met!
  5. Consider purchasing the Nintendo Wii or Wii Fit and playing as a family. Many other families have and love it.

If your child needs more help then you can provide ask your doctor for a referral to the Pediatric Fitness Clinic. 

Pediatric Fitness Clinic

Pediatric Fitness at UW Health offers a program to help children develop healthy habits of exercise and good nutrition. This unique program in Madison, Wisconsin, combines education with fun for children between the ages of 5 and 18 who:

  • Have concerns regarding their weight or fitness
  • Have a family or personal history of high cholesterol or hyperinsulinemia
  • Want to improve their fitness and conditioning
  • Who have developed medical problems related to their weight (such as high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure)