Therapeutic Physical Activities for Individuals with Cerebral Palsy

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Therapeutic Physical Activity




Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a neuromuscular disease that affects individuals from birth, or shortly thereafter and continually progresses in severity throughout the lifespan of the affected individual. Symptoms of CP generally consist of difficulty generating force via limbs or diminished muscular strength, difficulty controlling movements in space due to the spastic nature (hyperkinesia), as well as an unwilling resistance to movement of a joint (hypertonia). Throughout time there has been a plethora of naming and classification schemes utilized for the diagnosis of CP. The multitude of classification schemes may require the practitioner to invest a little more time prior to consulting with an individual to ensure understanding about how effected to individual is. Also associated with CP is increased energy expenditure associated with locomotion. Along with the muscular impairments observed in the population, this may lead to issues with normal exercise testing that would be performed with a healthy individual. Previous literature has shown that exercise testing for aerobic fitness, anaerobic power, muscular strength, and muscular endurance are all possible with this population. The tests associated may however require slight adaptations to ensure maximal validity, and comfort for the individual. Individuals CP commonly demonstrate lower levels of cardiorespiratory fitness, lower levels of muscular strength, muscular endurance, as well as an increased body fat percentage. In an effort to minimize the functional losses in strength and mobility that occur as the disease progresses the inclusion of a physical fitness program should be the cornerstone in the rehabilitation process. The practitioner should include aerobic, resistance, and flexibility exercises. In addition to the physiological benefits of physical activity, including decreased body fat and increased fitness levels, regular exercise for children and adolescents with disabilities may help to control the progression of the chronic disease and improve overall health and function.