Although it can be challenging at times, children with cerebral palsy can still participate in exercise and staying physically fit. There are numerous activities for all levels of cerebral palsy that can help kids remain active and stay healthy.
Importance of Staying Physically Fit
Due to the stress on their bodies, children with CP are at risk of aging prematurely as they get older. Exercise and staying healthy while young will help them beat premature aging, and at the same time, help them feel better both mentally and physically.
Although exercising and staying healthy isn’t a cure cerebral palsy, it gives the child the best chance of not only avoiding premature aging, but also a better chance of avoiding injuries and helping reduce the impact of associated disorders and illnesses.
Other health benefits of staying physically fit include:
- Increased flexibility and strength
- Improved cardiovascular conditions
- Better sleep
- Improved emotional and mental clarity
- Healthy body weight
How to Help Your Child Stay Healthy
There is a misconception that children with cerebral palsy can’t participate in exercises and physical activities. Yet, there are a number of exercises for all fitness and ability levels. The key is to incorporate physical fitness into their lives as early as possible, so that it becomes a lifelong habit.
It’s recommended to work with your physician, as well as a physical therapist and other medical professionals in order to find the right balance and level of exercise for your child’s individual needs. For instance, while some children will benefit most from engaging in sports, others may do better with physical therapy sessions and solo fitness routines.
How Much Exercise Per Day?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children get at least 60 minutes of physical exercise each day. Yet, your child’s own unique needs may prohibit that. Work with your child’s physician and a physical therapist to determine the appropriate amount of exercise each day.
Cerebral Palsy and Health Concerns
There are a number of health concerns that children with cerebral palsy may have to deal with as they age. Without regular fitness exercises and a nutritional diet, these problems can become worse. Common health issues children with cerebral palsy might face when they grow older include:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Respiratory issues
- Neurological problems
Helping Your Child Maintain Long-term Physical Fitness
You can help your child stay motivated by setting up physical fitness goals. Include the entire family, as research suggests that families who exercise together and play sports and games together tend to find physical fitness more enjoyable.
Just like every other person, there may be days when your child is not feeling up to working out. Perhaps they’re ill or simply don’t feel like exercising on a particular day. These instances are fine and should be expected. The key is to pick up the following day and keep the activities as interesting as possible. One way to do this is to make short-term goals for your child, which are more attainable. Reward them accordingly afterwards. As the become used to exercise, consider increasing the goals.
It’s important to never have unrealistic expectations from your child when it comes to exercising, while at the same time you’ll want to instill a lifetime habit of fitness. This can be tricky and sometimes difficult, but a physical therapist and/or your doctor’s child can assist you in developing the right plan.