Cerebral Palsy is the most common physical disability in childhood with 1 in 500 Australian children born with it each year. Cerebral means it is to do with the brain, palsy means weakness or problems using the muscles. This condition affects a person's ability to move and maintain balance and posture. Some people with Cerebral Palsy are also affected by seizures, vision, hearing or speech problems and/or spine or joint problems. Cerebral Palsy comes in different forms, including spasticity, dyskinesia and ataxia.
Spastic Cerebral Palsy is the most common form of CP which affects 80% of people with CP. Spasticity is having stiff muscles that may mean difficulty walking (Diplegia), having one half the body affected (Hemiplegia), or affecting the whole body including the face, arms, and legs (quadriplegia)
Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy is the uncontrolled movement of arms, hands, legs and feet. These movements can be slow, fast or jerky.
Ataxic Cerebral Palsy is having problems with balance and coordination, making it difficult to do things like walking, writing, or reaching for an object.
Mixed Cerebral Palsy is a combination of symptoms from more than one type of CP. The most common one is spastic-dyskinetic.
Exercise for Cerebral Palsy
Evidence is supportive of adults with cerebral palsy to improve muscle fitness, cardio fitness and joint range of motion through regular physical activity. Depending on the severity of the condition, it can be difficult to achieve recommended physical activity for those with Cerebral Palsy. However even with more severe conditions, many health benefits can be achieved through doing small amounts of activity. It’s important to start small while becoming familiar with different exercises and how your body responds. Utilising a professional can also assist with gradual progression over time based on your situation and abilities.
Suggested exercise activities:
- Riding a stationary bike
- Walk the dog
- Stretching at home or at a gym
- Arm exerciser (Upper Extremity Ergometers)
- Swim / Water exercises
- Join a group exercise class
What to do next
Consult with a doctor or healthcare provider prior to commencing an exercise program to review medications that may have an affect on your body's response to exercise.
Start small and increase slowly while reviewing the body's response to different types of exercise
Get an assessment with an exercise physiologist and start an individualised program suited to your abilities and condition. A professional can monitor vitals, provide guidance, and support throughout your health journey