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Cerebral Palsy & Exercise

Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a physical disability that affects movement and posture. Cerebral meaning ‘of the brain’ and palsy referring to ‘a lack of muscle control.’ Palsy is an umbrella term that refers to a group of disorders affecting a persons ability to move. In particular it affects, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex’s, posture and balance.

In Australia there are approximately 34,000 people living with Cerebral Palsy that’s 1 in 700 births.

Between each individual the severity of symptoms and areas of the body affected can vary. All muscles groups can be affected, including anything from the trunk stabilisers, muscles of the upper and lower limbs to the muscles that contribute to speech and swallowing.

People with Cerebral Palsy may experience uncontrolled or unpredictable movements (Dyskinesia), stiff, weak or tight muscles (Spasticity) and in some case, shaky movements or tremors, (Ataxia). Some people may experience any combination of the three.

As people with Cerebral Palsy are more likely to be sedentary than others, they are at higher risk of experiencing poor health and developing lifestyle related diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Additionally, inactivity can result in the onset of secondary muscle weakness, postural issues and subsequent immobility.

Did you know? That in the past, it was thought that strength training increased muscle stiffness and spasticity in individuals with Cerebral Palsy. However evidence now demonstrates that strength training not only has no negative effect on muscle spasticity, but that with targeted strength training it may even result in improved levels of spasticity.

Additionally, graduated, specific strength training will also result in increased functional strength and mobility, improved ambulation and increased independence. Similarly, cardiorespiratory endurance training can results in greater mobility and increased overall energy out put in individuals with Cerebral Palsy, subsequently improving their overall health outcomes.

If you, or someone you know are interested in hearing more about how a tailored exercise program can assist with managing Cerebral Palsy, feel free to reach out to one of our Exercise Physiologists here at Vitality Health and Rehab.

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