Cerebral Palsy and Physical Fitness
This article has been fact checked by a Board Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. Sources of information for the article are listed at the bottom.
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Although it can be challenging at times, children with cerebral palsy can participate in exercise and stay physically fit. There are numerous activities for all levels of cerebral palsy that can help children remain active and stay healthy.
Importance of Staying Physically Fit
Due to the stress on their bodies, children with cerebral palsy are at risk of aging prematurely. Exercise and staying healthy while young will help stop premature aging. At the same time, these activities will help them feel better both mentally and physically.
Although exercising and staying healthy are not cures for cerebral palsy, they do help the child avoid injuries and 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 levels and abilities. The key is to incorporate physical fitness into the child’s life as early as possible so that it becomes a lifelong habit.
It is recommended to work with your primary health care provider, 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 Many Exercises Per Day?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children get at least 60 minutes of physical exercise each day. Remember your child’s own unique needs may prohibit them from meeting the CDC’s recommendation. Work with your child’s healthcare team to determine how much daily exercise is appropriate for your child.
Cerebral Palsy and Health Concerns
There are a number of health concerns that children with cerebral palsy may encounter as they age. Without regular fitness exercises and a nutritional diet, these problems can become worse. Other common health issues that occur in children with cerebral palsy 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 exercising. Perhaps they are 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 more attainable, short-term goals for your child. Reward them accordingly afterward. As they become used to exercise, consider increasing these goals.
It is important to have realistic expectations for your child when it comes to exercising in order to instill a lifetime habit of fitness. This can be tricky and sometimes difficult, but your child’s health care team can assist you in developing the right plan for your family.