ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Helping Children with Cerebral Palsy To Become More Physically Fit

Updated on December 16, 2017
Carola Finch profile image

Carola is a disability advocate with many years of experience working in the disability community. She is also a freelance writer.


The symptoms of cerebral palsy (CP) affect children differently, so they face some unique challenges to becoming physically fit. Cerebral palsy is a disorder which occurs before or at birth where the brain is damaged. The symptoms include poor coordination and motor skills, and musculature impairment. Children with cerebral palsy sometimes experience learning and speech difficulties.

Physical exercise, however, provides many benefits such as:

  • Managing weight
  • Increased bone health
  • Increased mobility
  • Improving muscle tone and strength
  • Promotion of control over spasticity and range of motion
  • Reducing the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disease and other chronic conditions

Experts recommend that people with cerebral palsy begin with regular, short periods of moderate-intensity exercise. People with cerebral palsy tire more quickly during tasks than the non-disabled people, so relaxation breaks and stretching sessions can help to prevent fatigue. Here are some tips to help children with cerebral palsy achieve more range of motion and endurance.

Give the children unstructured playtime

Children with CP often lead very structured lives because of therapy and other medical appointments. They have little down time. They need time to let loose and play on their own terms.


Discourage the w-sitting position

Stacy M. Menz, a pediatric therapist, has observed that children with CP tend to position themselves in a “w-sitting” position. Sitting this way is is potentially harmful. Many children with CP sit on their bottoms with their knees bent and their legs spread out in a “w” position because it provides them with some stability, but this position takes a toll on their muscle development.

Some pediatric therapists say that is w-sitting is harmful because this position:

  • Shortens muscles, impacting the children's ability to balance, and their motor skills and coordination
  • Hinders their ability to rotate their trunk and develop trunk strength – w-sitting doesn’t require much trunk coordination
  • Encourages hamstring tightness
  • Causes hip and femur alignment problems
  • Creates poor posture
  • Hinders the development of balancing skills because the child doesn’t need to work his muscles in order to sit up straight

Ways to encourage children not to sit in the w-sitting position:

  • If a child seems to be going into a w-sitting position, tell them to change their legs to another way
  • Encourage the child to sit cross-legged, on one side, or with legs stretched out to the front
  • Remind children to change their position and praise them when they do
  • If the child is on one side, tell them to change sides – this builds bilateral coordination and the use of their hands to support themselves
  • use a couch or small table and chair when playing on the floor
  • If the child cannot sit, talk to a pediatric therapist about alternatives


Stretch children’s joints

Children with CP have difficulty holding onto a range of motion in the various joints in the body. Growth spurts will cause the muscles to become a little tighter, whether they have high tone or low tone. A reduction in their range of motion will impact their ability to move and do everyday tasks.

Pediatric therapists recommend starting to stretch muscles from an early age and to make a habit of stretching and moving the body into a various positions. Hot packs can help the muscles to be more flexible. Children with CP can benefit from intense pediatric therapy programs to stretch, build muscle strength, and increase flexibility, balance, and endurance.

Work on muscle tone and strength

Strength and tone are different characteristics. Many children with CP have altered muscle tone that can be low tone, high tone, or mixed tone, which combines the two. The weakness in low tone muscles are easier to spot and strengthen through therapy.

High tone is more difficult to address because the muscles tend to be “turned on” and stiffer. Strengthening may seem counterproductive but is necessary. Under the high tone are weak muscles that need to be strengthened. Strength exercises can help children control and regulate their muscle tone. Overall, strengthening muscles provides kids with CP increase their function.

Give kids a therapy vacation

Children with CP need a break from the physical activity. It gives their bodies and minds a chance to merge the new skills that they have been practicing. Children need time to rest and recover. Once they have had a break, they will move up to the next level of the skills they have been practicing.

Promote independence and self-reliance

Many children with CP are dependent on their parents, caregivers and health care aides for interaction and mobility. This situation could foster dependence on others.

Here are some ways to promote independence.

  • Encourage them to explore their environment
  • Promote communication and interaction with peers
  • Encourage self-reliance
  • Teach self-directed behavior so that the children are not dependent on parents for step by step instructions
  • Provide opportunities for them to enhance their cognitive skills
  • Provide mobility or assistive devices while encouraging them to improve their mobility
  • Allow children to do tasks independently such as feeding even if they make a mess, self-feeding will given them a sense of accomplishment

Provide a variety of physical activities

Mix harder and easier physical tasks. Children with CP need more time to master simple tasks such as eating a meal or walking. These tasks do become easier with time. Easier tasks in between harder tasks give children a break and lower their frustration levels.

Use video game play that promotes fitness

When children with cerebral palsy spend too much time in front of video games may be at risk of gaining weight or developing muscularoskeletal disorders or diabetes. Some video games, however, do encourage moderate to physical activity in children with CP. Some games that require physical body movements may not be vigorous enough to promote strength or build endurance, but they do encourage repetititive movements and and are enjoyable. Video games can provide a fun way to supplement a therapy plan.


Find ways to be physically active

Children should be active every day. Activity can be unstructured such as a visit to a park, games at home, or community programs. Parents can find ways to help their kids with CP be more physically active and have fun. Many sports can be adapted to the needs of children with CP. Aquatic activities, especially in warm water, can help relax muscles while improving muscle tone. Inner tubes, rafts, and toys can encourage children with CP to become more active.

9 best things to do for a kid with cerebral palsy (that don't feel like work), Love That Max, Stacy M. Menz
W-sitting and Your Child's Growth, North Shore Pediatric Therapy, Marissa Edwards
Kids with Cerebral Palsy May Benefit from Video Game Play, AlphaGalileo


Submit a Comment
  • kimvsowards profile image

    Kim Vaughn Sowards 

    14 months ago from Manassa, Colorado

    I enjoyed and learned a lot from this. Yes, it's important for children with Cerebral Patsy to have physically fit... Thanks for posting.

  • tobusiness profile image

    Jo Alexis-Hagues 

    6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

    This is very enlightening, a well written and well presented hub. Excellent work.

  • Carola Finch profile imageAUTHOR

    Carola Finch 

    6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Thanks for your comments.

  • DDE profile image

    Devika Primić 

    6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

    Helping Children with Cerebral Palsy To Become More Physically Fit, I have often heard of Cerebral Palsy but didn't know much about it until I read this hub, thanks for enlightening me on this subject.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)