New study indicates exercise can curb effects of cerebral palsy

A new study has found that regular exercise from an early age could hold the key to guarding against the often-devastating effects of cerebral palsy (CP)

The University of Cape Town research – published in the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation – looked at the body composition of highly-trained Paralympic athletes with CP and concluded that physical activity is key to mitigating the impact of the condition.

While elite-level athletes with cerebral palsy still have reduced muscle mass on the side of their body affected by neuromuscular impairment, physical training can offset other CP-related changes in body composition and physiology, suggests the study by Phoebe Runciman, PhD, of University of Cape Town, South Africa, and colleagues.

“The findings provide further evidence that high levels of exercise from a young age may be beneficial to individuals with CP,” the researchers write.

Overall, bone mineral density (BMD) levels for the six Paralympic athletes studied were similar to those of age-matched able-bodied people. In fact, BMD values were higher for the athletes with CP compared to the general population, although the differences were not statistically significant.

“The combination of these findings have important implications for the involvement of children with CP in exercise as a management or rehabilitative tool,” said researchers, adding that the results help in understanding how bone and other physiological systems adapt to exercise training.

“Thus there may be a significant number of children who have the capacity to participate in high-level exercise training from a young age.”