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Exercise to help children with cerebral palsy

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Daily physical activity is important for healthy growth and development. But sadly, that’s not always easy for children with cerebral palsy – the commonest childhood physical disability.

Children with cerebral palsy face lifelong difficulties with movement and coordination. While problems vary from child to child, many children with cerebral palsy spend a lot of time sitting down. They tend to be less active and less fit than other children.

Lack of physical activity can reduce children’s endurance levels and muscle strength. It may also cause secondary conditions, such as long-term pain, fatigue and osteoporosis. And children are also more likely to become overweight and develop insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes. It may even affect academic performance.

Professor Helen Dawes, who leads the Movement Science group at Oxford Brookes University, is assessing the feasibility and benefits of a school-based exercise programme for children with cerebral palsy.

She says: “School-based activities enable all children to benefit, whatever their background. Our new programme involves children taking regular breaks during lessons to stand up and join structured physical activity sessions in their classroom, with help if needed.”

The research team will look at the effects on children’s academic performance, strength, mobility and overall health and wellbeing using a range of tests.

This project has been jointly funded with the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy Charitable Trust.