Cerebral Palsy Exercises for Adults & Children
Exercise physiology is often the first step when it comes to supporting someone with cerebral palsy. Exercise is beneficial to all people, and for people with cerebral palsy, its benefits are particularly significant. From keeping the body flexible and strong to improving mobility and preventing injury, there are many ways in which cerebral palsy exercises help people enhance their level of independence and improve their quality of life.
How cerebral palsy exercises for adults and children can help
The main goal of exercise physiology is to make movement more efficient, and this is accomplished through addressing specific areas such as coordination, balance, flexibility, strength, posture, pain management, and gait training. Exercise programs for people with cerebral palsy can be tailored to achieve many different goals, including:
Improved gross motor skills
such as using gait training exercises to improve walking efficiency and minimise the risk of secondary musculoskeletal complications from altered gait patterns.
to help you manage functional tasks more easily eg carrying bags of groceries or climbing stairs.
with stretching exercises to limit the impact of spasticity and aid ease of movement.
by addressing patterns of muscle under- and overactivity and training in postural awareness.
to help you with tasks that require coordinated muscle activity, including gross motor skills such as gait, and fine motor skills such as writing.
If you have cerebral palsy, the right exercise program can help to prevent movement problems from progressing over time. Exercise also helps to keep you fit, which enhances your physical and mental health and wellbeing and reduces your risk for developing chronic health conditions. When you exercise with others, such as in a walking group or hydro class, you get the added benefits of social interaction and meeting new people.
Cerebral palsy exercise programs
The great thing about regular exercise is that it will not only help you feel better but also improve your functional capacity. The qualified and dedicated health professionals at Active Ability specialise in working with people with intellectual disability and neurological conditions such as cerebral palsy. We design exercise programs that consider your current level of function and goals. The aim will always be to support you to achieve greater independence, health and quality of life.
Exercise programs for children with cerebral palsy
For children with cerebral palsy, the right exercises can encourage healthy development of gross motor skills such as crawling, walking, jumping, running, kicking, lifting and throwing.
For children with cerebral palsy, starting an exercise program early supports the best outcomes. Other benefits of exercise for children with cerebral palsy include:
- improving or maintaining general physical and mental health
- reducing the risk of deconditioning and therefore loss of mobility and function
- strengthening muscle groups that are weak or lack tone
- improving or maintaining flexibility in tight/spastic muscle groups
- minimising the risk of developing abnormal movement patterns that will be more difficult to change later
- reducing the risk of developing postural abnormalities such as scoliosis and kyphosis (spinal curvatures)
- improving postural endurance eg the ability to maintain head control and sit up at a desk while doing schoolwork
- improving balance and coordination.
For children with cerebral palsy, it’s best to begin exercise as early as possible because early intervention is associated with the most beneficial outcomes.
For people with cerebral palsy, an exercise physiologist can create an exercise program to suit your goals and preferences.
Types of exercises for adults with cerebral palsy
People with cerebral palsy can have high or low muscle tone, or a mix of both. For some people with cerebral palsy, muscle tone can even vary throughout the day. High muscle tone can cause spasticity and stiffness, while low muscle tone causes weakness and too much flexibility, or ‘floppy’ muscles. Gait training exercise for cerebral palsy, as well as flexibility and other exercises, are often used to improve mobility as well as avoid painful tightening of the muscles that sometimes requires surgery.
Strengthening exercises for cerebral palsy
Strength training can make daily activities easier by increasing the strength of specific muscle groups. For example, you might do hand and wrist strength exercises so you are able to open tight jar and bottle lids more easily. Strength training may also build muscular endurance. For example, you might train your shoulder muscles so you can hang out a full load of washing.
Cerebral palsy balance exercises
Some people have a type of cerebral palsy that causes difficulties with balance and coordination. This can lead to unsteadiness on your feet and a higher risk of falls. Balance exercises can help to improve sensory awareness and balance control. Exercise physiologists also use individualised targeted exercise to assist people with posture. Training that involves standing, kneeling, and sitting can help improve posture. Many types of exercise can help – the important thing is to work with an exercise physiologist who’s qualified to assess your needs and create a program that’s personalised and suitable for you.
What results can I expect from an exercise program for cerebral palsy?
The results you can achieve will depend on various factors, such as the type and severity of your condition, the impact of other health concerns, and how motivated you (or the person you are supporting) are with your exercise program. Our experienced and caring exercise physiologists will help by ensuring your exercise program is safe and effective and helping you to implement exercise into your everyday life. We take a holistic approach to your health, so we also offer dietetics and physiotherapy. Our dietitians can help with education about good nutrition and supporting you to make positive dietary changes. Our physios can help with managing pain or injuries and supporting your physical activity program.
Finding an Exercise Physiologist
Adults and children with cerebral palsy requiring exercise and dietetic services to help maximise their quality of life can confidently turn to Active Ability. As a mobile service provider, we offer exercise physiology, physiotherapy, and dietetic services for people with disability, mental illness and neurological conditions. Since 2014, Active Ability have been providing people with disability access to high quality and expert allied health services to help them achieve their health, wellbeing and functional goals. We are registered NDIS providers with accredited exercise physiologists, accredited practicing dietitians and AHPRA registered physiotherapists on staff. For a customised program that meets your individual needs – or the needs of someone you are supporting – contact Active Ability now. We look forward to working with you to help you feel your best every day.