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Lifelong Fitness in Ambulatory Children and Adolescents with Cerebral Palsy II: Influencing the Trajectory

Journal Article
Susan V Duff, Justine D Kimbel, Marybeth Grant-Beuttler, Theresa Sukal-Moulton, Noelle G Moreau, Kathleen M Friel
Year Published: 
Behav Sci (Basel) . 2023 Jun 15;13(6):504. doi: 10.3390/bs13060504.
PMID: 37366756 | PMCID: PMC10295269 | DOI: 10.3390/bs13060504
Full Text on MDPI


Physical activity of at least moderate intensity in all children contributes to higher levels of physical and psychological health. While essential, children with cerebral palsy (CP) often lack the physical capacity, resources, and knowledge to engage in physical activity at a sufficient intensity to optimize health and well-being. Low levels of physical activity place them at risk for declining fitness and health, contributing to a sedentary lifestyle. From this perspective, we describe a framework to foster a lifelong trajectory of fitness in ambulatory children with CP (GMFCS I-III) as they progress into adolescence and adulthood, implemented in conjunction with a training program to augment bone and muscle health. First, we recommend that altering the fitness trajectory of children with CP will require the use of methods to drive behavioral change prior to adolescence. Second, to promote behavior change, we suggest embedding lifestyle intervention into fitness programming while including meaningful activities and peer socialization to foster self-directed habit formation. If the inclusion of lifestyle intervention to drive behavior change is embedded into fitness programs and found to be effective, it may guide the delivery of targeted programming and community implementation. Participation in comprehensive programming could alter the long-term trajectory of musculoskeletal health while fostering strong self-efficacy in persons with CP.


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Worldwide, over 24 million children and adults are living with CP.