Living an Active Lifestyle With CP
October 6th is World Cerebral Palsy Day
There is no better time than now to talk about this disorder that affects approximately 764,000 children and adults in the U.S.1
Not only will we fill you in on what it is, we’ll also share some great workout information (like how to calculate your target heart rate for cardio) that individuals who are and who are not affected by CP can apply to their routine.
What is Cerebral Palsy?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines Cerebral Palsy as “a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture.”2 There are varying degrees of severity and some variants of the disorder itself. The CDC classifies them in 4 ways:
A person with Spastic Cerebral Palsy has muscle stiffness which may affect the legs, the legs and arms, one side of the body, or, in severe cases, the whole body. Movement appears rigid and can be labor intensive.
A person with Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy has muscle tone that can fluctuate from being too tight and stiff, to too loose. Muscle movement is difficult to control which can make movements slower or faster than what is typical.
A person with Ataxic Cerebral Palsy has problems with coordination and balance. Quick or precise movements can be difficult to execute.
Mixed Cerebral Palsy occurs when a person experiences symptoms that come from more than one type of Cerebral Palsy.
Is it Possible to Both Be Active and Have Cerebral Palsy?
Physical activity is great for the body, the heart, and the mind. This is something most of us have learned and had ingrained in our memory since childhood. With so many obstacles to free movement, you might wonder how someone with CP can exercise.
The American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine (AACPDM) reminds us that the recommended amount of weekly cardio for adults is 150 minutes.3 They go on to say that “there is no evidence to suggest that these requirements should be any different for people with cerebral palsy.”3
How to Be Active When Living with Cerebral Palsy
The following tips are straight from the Fact Sheet provided by the AACPDM. You can view the full document here.
Remember that some exercises may not be safe or possible if you are experiencing certain limitations, so be sure to consult your doctor so you understand the right options for you.
Tip #1: Do Exercises That Build Strength and Endurance
To build muscle, you’ll need to increase the resistance, or the weight your muscles have to move. To build endurance, you’ll need to increase the repetitions, or the number of times you complete a movement. 3 The AACPDM recommends that you should:
- Aim for a maximum of 10 repetitions.
- Start with 1 set. With time, as it becomes easier, start to increase your sets.
- Take at least 1 day of rest between strength training a single muscle group. 3
Tip #2: Exercise Your Heart
To exercise your heart, you’ll need to know what your maximum heart rate is and set a goal to exercise at 40 – 85% of that maximum. Your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute.
To calculate your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. 3 For example, if you are 20 years old, (220 – 20 = 200), your maximum heart rate is 200.
Now that you have your maximum, you can calculate the heart rate you should aim for when you do cardio. All you have to do is multiply your maximum heart rate by 40% (0.40) and then do a new calculation and multiply by 85% (0.85) instead. Don’t forget to convert the percentage into a decimal by dividing it by 100.
For example, if your maximum heart rate is 200, you would do the following calculation:
200 x 0.40 = 80 beats per minute
200 x 0.85 = 170 beats per minute
Now you know that, to effectively exercise your heart, you need to get your heart rate between 80 and 170 beats per minute.
The AACPDM recommends that you start at a rate of 40% and increase your target rate gradually. 3
Tip #3: Work on Improving Your Range of Motion
Improving your range of motion simply means that you are improving your flexibility. The more flexible you are, the easier it is to do common daily activities like sitting, reaching, and bending.
The AACPDM reminds us that yoga and stretching are not the only ways to improve flexibility. Using your full range of motion while doing your strength training exercises is also a way to improve the flexibility of your muscles. 3
They also talk about how dynamic stretches help improve the muscle’s functionality and strength.3 Dynamic stretches get your body moving and warmed-up, so they are often done before you start working out.4
Living an active lifestyle is not necessarily exclusive to people of a certain level of ability. Even though Cerebral Palsy affects motor function, exercise is still possible if you respect the limitations in your movement and adhere to the guidance of your doctor.
However, depending on the exact nature of your condition, physical activity simply may not be for you. If this is the case, don’t lose hope! Talk to your doctor to find out what you can do to still care for your health without doing harm to your body.
For more ideas on how to move more and sit less, read our post, 6 Ways to Decrease the Time You Spend Sitting. If you’re not looking to lose weight and instead, you’re looking to put on some healthy pounds, listen to our podcast on How to Gain Healthy Weight.
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- “Cerebral Palsy Information.” Cerebral Palsy Guidance, 2019, www.cerebralpalsyguidance.com/cerebral-palsy/research/facts-and-statistics/.
- “What Is Cerebral Palsy? | CDC.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019, www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/cp/facts.html.
- “Cerebral Palsy Information.” Cerebral Palsy Guidance, The American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine, www.cerebralpalsyguidance.com/cerebral-palsy/research/facts-and-statistics/.
- “The Benefits of Dynamic Stretching and How to Get Started.” Healthline, www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/dynamic-stretching.