4 Amazing Health Benefits Enjoyed by Cerebral Palsy Athletes

We now know that participating in physical activities from an early age can be beneficial for children who have cerebral palsy.

4 Amazing Health Benefits Enjoyed by Cerebral Palsy Athletes

In the past, children with cerebral palsy (CP) were excluded from participating in sports. They sat on the sidelines watching the other kids play, but now they are increasingly becoming part of the action.

Disabilities may necessitate adaptations to the rules or gameplay of traditional sports but having a disability like cerebral palsy is no longer a disqualifier for athletic activity.

We now know that participating in physical activities from an early age can be beneficial for children who have cerebral palsy.

The benefits of athletics for persons with cerebral palsy include:

Increased Bone Mineral Density (BMD)

Low bone mineral density (BMD) and uneven a BMD between the affected and unaffected sides of persons with hemiplegic cerebral palsy are hallmark CP traits. Bone density is important because denser bones are less likely to break or to develop osteoporosis. Immobility and an overly sedentary lifestyle can contribute to low BMD.

During a recent study published in the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, researchers analyzed the effects of physical fitness training on the body composition of Paralympic athletes who have hemiplegic cerebral palsy.

What the researchers found is that the athletes had similar bone mineral density measurements on their affected and non-affected sides. This is not the case for the sedentary population with cerebral palsy. Even more encouraging, the athletes’ BMD measurements were similar to the measurements of age-matched non-disabled peers.

Improved Muscle Tone

The muscle spasticity and contractures that are common with cerebral palsy limit mobility and flexibility. Stretching routines and practices like yoga may help relax the muscle groups that are overly tense while strengthening those that are overly weak. Performing these routines help move the body closer towards a state of balance.

Balance Improvement

Strength training muscles like the abs, obliques, and lower back builds the body’s core. A stronger core helps to support improved balance and better posture.

Researchers recently demonstrated the value of core strength training by studying the effect this type of exercise had on the posture, movement, and endurance capacity of a group of children.

After eight weeks the researchers concluded that “A stable and strong core may contribute to more efficient use of the lower limbs which could enhance the [patients’] walking ability and velocity.”

A Less Sedentary Lifestyle

In an age where we are all hyper-aware of the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle, it is scary to find out that children and adults with cerebral palsy spend an average of 76% to 99% of their waking hours being sedentary.

For children especially, making physical fitness an enjoyable and positive experience can be the key to engagement. When they are spending time at a gym specifically designed to meet their needs, a place where they can experience authentically positive interactions with other athletes and trainers, and most importantly a place where they can feel safe to be themselves, they will want to come back again and again. They will naturally become less sedentary simply because they have learned to enjoy their physical fitness journey and look forward to continuing it.

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In this article, we will explore how kids with special needs can reap the physical, mental, and emotional benefits from participating in sports.
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