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Cerebral Palsy and Physical Activity

Posted by on 26th Dec,2012 in Category Blog ~ Comments Off

According to a study published in Obesity Reviews on October 23, one way for adults with cerebral palsy to improve overall mobility is to engage in physical activity. In addition, by being less sedentary and more active, the occurrence of metabolic and cardiovascular disease can be reduced. Mark D. Peterson, Ph.D. and colleagues from Michigan University examined the effect premature muscle-wasting, obesity and lifestyle intervention had on early functionality declines in those with cerebral palsy. They found that early decline is often connected to chronic pain, fatigue, orthopedic abnormalities, spasticity and weakness.

The researchers also discovered that the extent of body degeneration in cerebral palsy-afflicted adults correlates with the amount of sedentary behavior incurred. Being sedentary substantially escalates the risk of cardiometabolic disease; premature death; early sarcopenia (a condition of age-related loss of muscle mass and strength), and general functional deterioration. The decrease in strength is very much linked with functional capacity deterioration. So with early detection and more physical activity, additional declines can be avoided.

The researchers suggest the best line of defense is to decrease sedentary behavior and increase physical activity as much as possible. As Peterson concluded, “in conjunction with the standard physical and occupational therapies prescribed for managing gait/mobility deficits, spasticity and range-of-motion in this population, participation in physical activity and progressive exercise is absolutely vital to prevent secondary muscle pathology and cardiometabolic comorbidity throughout adulthood.”

Further evidence backs this. According to Jennifer Green, NCHPAD Visiting Information Specialist, there are also many social benefits for people with cerebral palsy to find an appropriate exercise program. As well, it can help reduce anxiety; increase mobility and coordination; advance bone health; control weight and reduce the occurrence of chronic diseases. While the American College of Sports Medicine has stated that the same guidelines for the general population on an exercise regime can be applied to those with CP, it adds that due to neuromotor function issues common in those with the condition, various modifications and considerations must be considered.

Given their limited motor control, those with cerebral palsy have a high energy expenditure at low power-output levels. When engaging in aerobic exercises, individuals with cerebral palsy should begin with regular, but short, bouts of moderate-intensity. Remember that in general, fatigue happens earlier with those with cerebral palsy due to a higher degree of energy expenditure during motor tasks. So the best formula involves short intervals and relaxation and stretching sessions throughout the session to ward off fatigue. The aim of the exercises is to “target weak muscle groups that oppose hypertonic muscle groups, improve the strength of the weak muscle group, and normalize the tone in the opposing hypertonic muscle group through reciprocal inhibition.”

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