May 24 2016 Update: Corrected founder of Youbike.
For people living with cerebral palsy, staying fit and active can often prove to be a challenge. However, recent research has shown that an active lifestyle can greatly improve the overall quality of life experienced by those with cerebral palsy.
The benefits of taking regular exercise amount to more than simply increasing fitness levels. A frequently followed fitness regime can improve a person’s functionality and make daily activities far easier to perform. Couple this with the reductions in other health complications and it’s easy to see why individuals with CP should look toward upping the amount of physical activity they do day-to-day.
Why Physical Activity Helps
Not only will physical activity make you feel better straight away by giving you an endorphin release, the long-term benefits are numerous too. Maintaining muscle mass will help with coordination and your Lean Body Mass (LBM) is what drives your metabolism and keeps you going each and every day.
Similarly, regular exercise will help you maintain a healthy weight and strengthen your heart as well. By keeping off the excess pounds your body will be better equipped to cope with the strains of everyday life.
What Type Of Exercise Is Available For Me?
Thankfully, the types of exercises that you can do if you have CP are wide and varied. Simple stretching will improve flexibility initially and weight training can be introduced in order to build strength and tone underused muscle groups.
It is important to start off slowly if you have been doing little or no exercise of late. Simple things such as gardening, cleaning your home, and walking or wheeling to places where you would ordinarily use the car all count.
Once you feel ready to pick up the pace a little, and if you are capable of doing so, running and cycling are great ways to get some cardiovascular workouts in so that you can improve your aerobic capacity. Alternatively, for wheelchair users, swimming, arm cranking and wheeling work well too.
You Bike offers another alternative for those in wheelchairs, and it gives the user the opportunity to work both upper and lower body simultaneously. This can benefit in terms of flexibility, increased bone structure and strength, and improve lung capacity too. Best of all, this can be done in the comfort of your own home whenever you’re ready to work out. The same type of exercise is used to help stroke victims to recover.
Sports And Other Fitness Activities
Numerous sports, from hand cycling to swimming, circuit training to wheelchair basketball, are available depending on what level of CP you have. Your physiotherapist will be able to advise you on what type of activity will suit you best and quite often one sport will lead to another. Getting started is the most important thing.
Setting yourself achievable goals will help you to progress and give you something to work towards. These can be really simple, such as setting yourself a certain amount of time each day purely for physical exercise and gradually increasing the length of time as your fitness improves.
Overall goals are important too, and any fitness regime should aim to achieve the following:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Improved strength
- Better cardiovascular health
- More flexibility
- Healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels
Naturally, it is crucial that you keep safety uppermost in your mind when embarking on a new exercise program. Consult your doctor prior to starting out and ask for any help or advice on how best to proceed.
If you are going to make use of your local gym or leisure center, be sure to take advantage of any induction that may be offered to you. This will give you an opportunity to find out how to use the machinery in the safest possible way. If they do not offer an induction, ask for one.
When you start out, know your own limits too and listen to what your body is telling you. Start off slow; injury isn’t going to help. Most important of all, however, is that you have fun. Getting fit can be extremely rewarding, so enjoy it and all of the benefits that it will bring to your life.
Clem & Phil Thorn are the Founders of You Bike, an exercise equipment company that specializes in equipment designed for sufferers of movement restricting problems such as strokes, Parkinsons, arthritis and cerebral palsy. YouBike are also on Facebook.
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