[This post is part of our Knowledge Translation/Education Tuesday series. Guest author Lily Collison, author of Spastic Diplegia–Bilateral Cerebral Palsy, continues the series. You can ask questions of the author on the MyCP Forum].
In the last post I included links to the guides Fit for Life, Fit for Sport, and exercise and physical activity tips for the younger child. This post will address exercise and physical activity tips for the older child, adolescent, and adult. I wrote them with therapists at Gillette.
- For all types of exercise, a referral to either a PT or OT is recommended, even for just one or two sessions. There are also wonderful athletic trainers who have advanced training in working with people with physical limitations. Trainers who lack this specialized training, however, may advise overexercising, which can lead to injuries. Consider calling the fitness centers or gyms in your area to check if any of their staff have training in adapting exercise programs for people with physical challenges.
- If you’re working with weights, consider getting expert guidance on how much weight is safe to work with and how many repetitions to perform.
- Fast walking can achieve many of the same benefits as running and may be safer for some people.
- You have many options when it comes to cycling, including outdoor and indoor (static) bikes. Three-wheeled bikes may be ideal for those with balance issues. You can purchase blocks (trainers) to convert an outdoor bike to an indoor bike when the weather doesn’t allow for outdoor mobility.
- A therapist can offer guidance on the appropriate size and type of sports wheelchair to use and can check to see if you are eligible for any funding aid to purchase one.
- A few tips for swimming:
- Consider scheduling a few sessions with a pool PT or OT to develop an appropriate swimming program.
- If you use a wheelchair, call around to find a pool with PVC pool chairs and a ramp.
- A pool temperature of 88–94 degrees Fahrenheit can be very therapeutic and can help reduce pain and stiffness.
- Nonskid pool shoes are recommended for walking from the changing room to the pool and back to avoid falls on wet pool decks.
- Swim paddles, kickboards, flippers, etc. can be used to increase resistance for muscle strengthening.
- You can find many excellent videos online to guide you through adaptive yoga, tai chi, and other such programs. The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) has some.
- Incorporate as much exercise as you can into the normal day (for example, cycling to school, after-school activities, or work).
- Most school programs include at least a weekly session of physical education. Try to ensure that the program includes the child or adolescent’s needs as much as possible so that they can participate in the sport, even if this means adapting the rules, the equipment, or the mindset of the teacher or coach. Forcing the child or adolescent to sit out their school physical education period is a missed opportunity both in terms of the benefits of exercise and the camaraderie and social experience of teamwork. Research has shown that school-based exercise programs are beneficial for children and adolescents with CP.
I’m very respectful of the fact that the people who live with physical disability will have other tips. Your comments are very welcome over at MyCP.