What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral Palsy (CP) is an umbrella term used to describe different forms of developmental, neurological disorders affecting a child’s movement, muscle tone and coordination. It is the most common form childhood disability worldwide. It is a non-progressive condition, meaning it doesn’t worsen as a child ages, however it is permanent.

Cerebral = Brain

Palsy = Weakness or lack of control of muscles.

The disorder can affect a child in varying degrees, depending on the severity of the condition and type of CP the child has. There are four main types of CP, depending on what part of the brain has been damaged during early stages of development.

It is important to remember that CP is a condition, not a disease, meaning it is not contagious. CP is also not heredity or caused by genetic factors. CP is caused by damage to the brain during the very early stages of development.

The common symptoms or signs of CP include:

  • Low muscle tone

  • Altered gait

  • Muscle spasm

  • Poor muscular control and reflexes

  • Delayed physical and learning development

  • Speech delay

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Seizures

How can exercise and physical activity help?

There is strong evidence to suggest that physical activity and exercise from an early age can help improve physical abilities.

Regular exercise can help to improve range of motion, muscular control, cardiovascular fitness and mobility.

As the large number of symptoms are centred around muscular control and strength, it is important that an exercise program targets these symptoms. Research shows that exercise can help to improve:

  • Functional capacity and independence

  • Reduce risk of depression and improve quality of life

  • Improve cardiovascular health

  • Reduce risk of osteoporosis

  • Reduce the risk of falls and fractures

  • Improve confidence and sense of independence.

It is recommended that we all aim to complete 150 minutes of physical activity per week, ensuring a mix of cardiovascular, strength and flexibility exercises are included in this.

Depending on the severity of this condition, 150 minutes may not be realistic, so it is important to set individual goals and aim to complete what is relevant to the person.

For somebody with CP, it is also a good idea to talk to your GP about starting exercise, and consider whether an Exercise Physiologist may be of assistance when first starting out.

Exercise Physiologists are experts when it comes to prescribing correct exercises for chronic health conditions. We understand the types of movement you may need, as well as any home exercises that should be completed to help you reach your goals.

If you are someone living with CP and you haven’t started exercise yet, it is important to remember that exercise is vital to long term health and function. Exercise doesn’t need to be an intense or complicated, it can be as simple as it needs to be, even 10 minutes is better than nothing.

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