Cerebral palsy – can regular exercise improve health and mobility? | Children's Charity

Cerebral palsy – can regular exercise improve health and mobility?

Project LeaderDr M L van der Linden, PhD MSc and Dr J M Ryan, BSc PG Dip PhD
Project team
  • Dr P Koufaki BSc PhD
  • Dr N Theis PhD MSc BSc
  • Dr N K Anoyke BA MSc PhD
  • Dr S M Phillips BSc MSc PhD
LocationSchool of Health Sciences, Queen Margaret University
Other locations
  • Department of Clinical Sciences, Brunel University
  • School of Sport and Exercise University of Gloucestershire
  • Institute for Sport, Physical Education and Health Sciences, University of Edinburgh
Duration1 year
Grant awarded23 November 2018
Provisional start date1 March 2019
Provisional end date28 February 2020
Grant amount£72,422.00
Grant codeGN2767

We do not provide medical advice. If you would like more information about a condition or would like to talk to someone about your health, contact NHS Choices or speak to your GP. Please see our useful links page for some links to health information, organisations we are working with and other useful organisations. We hope you will find these useful. We are not responsible for the content of any of these sites.


Cerebral palsy is the most common serious physical problem in children, estimated to affect more than 1,500 babies born in the UK each year. Children with cerebral palsy develop stiff muscles, and bone and joint deformities which can make it hard for them to walk and engage in physical activities.  Low levels of physical activity are associated with a higher risk of diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  It is especially challenging for young people with moderate-to-severe cerebral palsy to take part in exercise programmes.

‘RaceRunning’ (www.racerunning.org) uses a custom-built tricycle which has a breastplate for support and a saddle, but no pedals. This allows children who are unable to walk or propel a wheelchair, to move themselves safely using their legs and trunk.  By using these running bikes, young people with moderate-to-severe cerebral palsy can take part in aerobic activities with the potential to improve muscle function and mobility.


The research project

In this project, the researchers will recruit 25 children and young people with moderate-to-severe cerebral palsy who are new to RaceRunning. They will take part in one 60 minute RaceRunning session each week for 24 weeks. The aim of this initial study is to see if it would be feasible to carry out a larger study looking at the effects of RaceRunning on the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and mobility in these children. Before starting a large study, it is important to find out if participants enjoy RaceRunning and are therefore likely to complete the study. Cardiometabolic risk factors and mobility will be measured at 12 and 24 weeks and these initial results will help researchers to design a larger, more comprehensive study. If RaceRunning is able to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes, this could have a major effect on the health of children with cerebral palsy throughout their lives. Improvements in mobility may also positively affect children’s quality of life and independence.

This is a joint award from Action Medical Research and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy Charitable Trust.


Help us spread the word