Aquatic Exercise Program for Children with Cerebral Palsy: a pilot intervention study

By Maria A. Fragala-Pinkham PT, DPT, MS, from the Research Center for Children with Special Health Care Needs; Hilary J. Smith PT, DPT, Kelly A. Lombard PT, DPT and Carrie Barlow PT, BS, PCS, from the Department of Physical Therapy, Franciscan Hospital for Children Boston, MAUSA; Margaret E. O’Neil PT, PhD, MPHc from the College of Nursing and Health Professions, Department of Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences, Drexel University Philadelphia, PAUSA; Feb 2014



The primary purpose of this pilot study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a 14 week aquatic exercise program on gross motor function and walking endurance in children with cerebral palsy (CP). The secondary purpose was to evaluate changes in functional strength, aerobic capacity and balance.



A prospective time series group design consisting of four measurement sessions (two baseline, one post intervention, and 1 month follow-up) was used. Eight ambulatory children ages 6-15 years with cerebral palsy (CP) and classified at Gross Motor Function Classification System Level I or Level III participated in an aquatic aerobic exercise program.



Significant improvements were observed for the primary outcomes of gross motor function and walking endurance. No significant differences between any of the secondary measures were observed, although all of the measures demonstrated trends of improvement after intervention.



Ambulatory children with cerebral palsy (CP) may improve their gross motor skills and walking endurance after an aquatic exercise program held twice per week for 14 weeks, utilizing moderate-to-vigorous exercise intensity and consisting of functional activities.

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