Information alert

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Exercise and physical activity has a number of health benefits for all adults. Physical activity encompasses a range of activities that influence your breathing, heart rate, muscle strength, fitness and flexibility. This page will explain the benefits of exercise, ways of participating dependent on your abilities and how much activity is appropriate.

The benefits of exercise:

  • Improves bone health and reduces the risk of osteoporosis (weak bones)
  • Reduces the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes and various forms of cancer
  • Strengthening can improve transfers and walking which can reduce the risk of falls
  • Helps improve sleep and fatigue
  • Increases energy expenditure which helps to maintain a healthy weight
  • Improves cognition
  • Improves mood and confidence which can improve quality of life
  • Provides opportunities for social interaction and reduces isolation
  • Maintain independence with activities of daily living

Without realising you may already be completing more exercise than you think. Walking or propelling a wheelchair, cleaning the house, gardening and standing to cook or wash the dishes can all contribute to increasing your activity levels day to day.

If exercise is new to you and you are just starting to increase activity levels it is advisable to start with fewer, shorter sessions and progress gradually thereafter. For adults with neurological disease exercise is important to maintain optimal function and reduce the risk of secondary health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle. Increasing activity no matter how small will still have health benefits.

The exercise itself should be pain free when completing, you can expect some mild muscle soreness for up to 48 hours after starting a strengthening program. Strengthening will not make your spasticity worse.

These are national guidelines for all adults. Once discussed with your GP, consultant or healthcare provider these guidelines can be followed or used as a target to build towards.

There is no evidence to suggest that these requirements should be any different for adults with CP.

  • 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardiorespiratory exercise or activity per week (an activity where your heart works much harder than normal).
  • Muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week.
  • Reducing sedentary behaviour - when possible aim to break up long periods of inactivity with some light physical activity
Cardiorespiratory Activities

How often:

Beginner: 1-2 shorter sessions per week and progress. Experienced: 5 times per week of moderate exercise OR 3 times per week of vigorous exercise.

How hard:

Aim to exercise at your target heart rate. Your target heart rate is 40 – 85% of your maximum heart rate.

How long:

Aim towards 20 minutes per session e.g. a walk to the shops. This may not be achievable straight away.

What type:

Regular, purposeful exercise. Involving major muscle groups (legs/ arms). Continuous/ Rhythmic in nature.

  • Cycling
  • Walking
  • Stair climbing
  • Fitness class
  • Dancing
  • Arm cycling
  • Swimming
  • Race running/ Trike bike
  • Propelling wheelchair
  • Horse riding


Strengthening Activities

How often:

2-4 times per week, on non-consecutive days.

How hard:

Work at 50-80% of your maximal effort. 1-3 sets of 6-15 repetitions.

How long:

No specific duration is recommended. Strengthening should occur over 12-16 weeks of training.

What type:

Either single joint (bending elbow) OR multi joint (squatting down). Keep muscles balanced by strengthening in both directions e.g. the muscles that bend AND straighten the knee should both be exercised.

  • Stair climbing
  • Sit to stands
  • Lifting your arms or legs against gravity
  • Free weights/ resistance bands
  • Exercise machines
  • Carrying shopping
  • Heavy gardening
  • Standing programmes
  • Home exercise programme
  • Yoga/ Pilates exercises

  • Find an environment you like (home/ park/gym/class)
  • Choose activities that are suitable to you and you find enjoyable. These can be things you are already doing such as walking
  • Exercise with a ‘buddy’ or in a group can be motivational and social
  • Set a goal and try to stick to it.
  • Pace yourself. Start slowly and gradually build up what you are able to do. Stop before you become too tired
  • Each activity should last for at least 10 minutes to have cardiovascular benefits
  • Wear comfortable clothing and supportive shoes such as trainers
  • If you start exercising and need ways of adapting your exercises please contact us.

There are a number of disability access leisure centres/ gyms and classes now available around the country, alongside charities and groups promoting physical activity. Below are some resources for you to look into:

  • CP International Sport and Recreation Association
  • CP Sport Riding for the disabled
  • Race running
  • Sportability
  • Walking for Health
  • Wheelchair accessible gyms: ‘Activity Alliance’ / ‘Better gyms’/ ‘Aspire’
  • NHS Choices / NHS live well

Direct line: 020 3448 3510

Page last updated: 15 May 2024

Review due: 30 November 2024