Cerebral Palsy and Exercise

Why is Exercise Beneficial to Children with Cerebral Palsy?

Exercise is good for everyone. Exercise promotes good blood circulation, it works on cardiovascular and muscular strength, and it makes you feel better. These are all the same reasons for why exercise is good for children with cerebral palsy, even though exercise for a child with cerebral palsy is a little more of an important focus than on the everyday person.

How Are Children with Cerebral Palsy Physically Benefited By Exercise?

Children with cerebral palsy are working actively on strengthening their muscles, and also on balance and gait. Daily exercises work on the balance and the strength that eventually leads to the focus on gait. Working on their gait not only adds to their endurance and general exercise-related wellness, but it allows them to learn how to be more independent, which will be physically better for them in the long run.

When any child takes the time to exercise, they usually sleep better, feel better, and are more alert. Children with cerebral palsy can enjoy the same benefits, and biggest and most influential reason for having your children with cerebral palsy exercise is because as they get stronger, their overall coordination and balance can greatly improve.

While it might be occasionally frustrating or discouraging when they miss a step or miss a point in therapy, the exercises and practice get them up to a point when they can walk on their own, or at least walk with the aid of a walker. This is perhaps one of the biggest and most important goals for a child with cerebral palsy not only because their prognosis and long-term life goals are more free and open, but because they get a sense of independence that they might not otherwise get.

What Kind of Exercises Are the Most Beneficial?

If you’re looking for specific exercises for your child with cerebral palsy, be sure to consult your child’s physical and/or occupational therapist. Since therapist works closely with children on an individual basis (in most instances), they can recommend the most beneficial exercises that will target your child’s most challenging areas.

It’s important to follow all of your therapist’s recommendations to be sure your child works on strengthening targeted areas, so that your child’s overall wellness is improved. It’s incredibly important to work closely with an occupational therapist because fine motor skills and daily living activities can often be a challenge for children with cerebral palsy. They’re also trained to assess the limitations of your child and to know what exercises to prescribe at what time so that your child is both learning and not discouraged by a seemingly insurmountable challenge.

What Kinds of Activities Are Considered Exercises?

Exercises can be everything from stretching to getting out in the world. Some exercises involve other people, which helps to build the child’s confidence with social skills. Some exercise involve pointing and flexing the child’s feet, and some exercises could include using a public pool or a public play ground.

Again, most exercises created by therapists are individualized according to each child’s unique challenges. For additional information on the general types of exercises provided in therapy, refer to our articles Infant Physical Therapy and Infant Occupational Therapy.