As with most children, kids with cerebral palsy greatly benefit from exercise. Your doctor or physical therapist can recommend exercises that accommodate your child’s physical limitations. In a number of respects, exercise benefits kids with cerebral palsy in ways that improve the health of every child. Exercise strengthens the heart, reduces blood pressure and keeps weight under control. Circulation and lung function are enhanced. Exercise also helps with flexibility, muscle tone and muscle and bone strength. In addition, playing with other kids enhances social skills such as sharing, taking turns and being considerate of others.
Recommended forms of exercises for kids with cerebral palsy include horseback riding, which is often used as therapy for kids with any form of disability or limitations, jogging, walking and swimming. Not only is water soothing for many kids, the buoyancy relieves strain on bones and joints. Simply playing outdoors with your child, in the form of a game of catch or hide and seek, is a great way to exercise. In addition to being fun, playing games helps you and your child bond.
Stretching is a useful exercise for every child. One excellent form of stretching for cerebral palsy kids is yoga, which is also a stress reliever. Dancing also is a fun and beneficial form of exercise. According to the Cerebral Palsy Therapy website, dancing can improve mobility, breathing and circulation.
A study from the Netherlands, published in the “Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine in 2007, found that an exercise program for children with cerebral palsy improved the kids’ fitness, participation and quality of life. The exercise sessions were conducted twice per week for eight months. The kids warmed up for five minutes, did aerobic exercises for endurance and anaerobic exercises for strength and muscle mass for about 30 to 40 minutes, and then cooled down for five minutes. In addition to the research findings, parents of the kids in the exercise group reported an improvement in basic motor functioning, autonomy, and cognitive functioning. However, the parents noticed little difference in pain or social functioning, In a follow-up four months after the exercise sessions ended, the kids in the exercise group had lost some of the aeraobic and anaerobic gains made during the exercise sessions, confirming the value of long-term exercise.
Play therapy is a form of exercise recommended at the Treatment of Cerebral Palsy website. Play is more than recreational — it is essential for your child’s development. Ensuring that toys are accessible to your child is important, and the child should be able to indicate his preferences. Play releases stress and aids mental and physical development. It increases hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. It also give you and your child an opportunity to laugh, a fine form of medicine its own right. Just putting a young child on the floor gives him a chance to exercise and explore his world and use the mobility he possesses.