12 Effective Cerebral Palsy Exercises for Improve Health

cerebral palsy exercises

You’ve lived with cerebral palsy your whole life, but have you truly explored ways to strengthen and improve mobility? Exercise is vital for health and independence. The good news is there are simple cerebral palsy exercises you can do at home.

Whether you have hemiplegic, spastic, or ataxic cerebral palsy, you owe it to yourself to commit to a regular exercise routine. In this article, you’ll learn twelve effective cerebral palsy exercises without special equipment. 

Cerebral Palsy Stretching Exercises

Cerebral palsy stretching exercises can help increase flexibility and range of motion for people with cerebral palsy. They include:

1. Joint Rotations

To keep joints flexible and muscles strong, rotate and move your joints through their full range of motion. For cerebral palsy, focus on the ankles, knees, hips, elbows, and wrists.

Below are some cerebral palsy exercises you must do: 


To perform this exercise, rotate your ankles in circular motions. Begin by turning them in one direction and then switch to the other. You can do this seated or lying down. Bend your knees and slowly rotate your ankles, pointing your toes up and down.


Lie on your back with your legs extended. Bend one knee, grasping behind the knee to pull it up towards your chest. Hold, then straighten the leg back out. Repeat with the other leg. You can perform knee rotations by slowly bending and straightening each knee, one at a time.


Bend your knees and lay your back on the ground. Keep your feet flat on the floor. Slowly raise one knee towards your chest, grasping behind the knee. Lower back down. Raise the other knee. You can also do hip rotations by slowly rotating one bent knee out to the side and back in. Then, repeat with the other hip.

2. Calf Stretch

Tight calves can lead to several issues. This includes poor posture, back pain, and problems with balance. Regular cerebral palsy exercises like this feed whole-body benefits.

Here’s how you can perform calf stretch: 

  • Stand facing a wall with your palms on the wall and arms extended.
  • Place one foot forward with the knee bent and the other leg straight behind you. Keep the back heel on the floor.
  • Bend your elbows and lean forward to stretch your calf muscles. 
  • Hold for 30 seconds and switch on the other side. 
  • For added intensity, bend the back knee slightly. You should feel tension in your calf, not pain.

This simple stretch can help relieve calf tightness and prevent conditions like plantar fasciitis. 

3. Quadricep Stretch

The quadriceps refer to the group of large muscles located at the front of your thighs. This simple stretch helps loosen tight quadriceps muscles. In return, this can help lower back pain and impact your walking or balance. Keeping these muscles flexible is key, especially as you age.

To do that, lie on your side with your legs straight and together. Bend your top knee and place that foot flat on the floor before your bottom leg. Reach behind you and grasp your bottom foot with the same side hand. Pull your heel towards your buttock until you feel a stretch in your thigh.

Hold for 30 seconds. Release and switch legs, repeating the stretch on the other side. Do 2-3 reps on each leg, 2-3 times a week.

4. Hamstring Stretch

Regular hip and knee movements require these muscles that oppose the quads. Hamstring stretches provide benefits for people of all abilities and fitness levels.

With that in mind, sit on the floor with one leg extended. Reach for your extended foot and grab the ball or your toes. Gently pull your foot towards you while keeping your extended leg straight. You should sense the spread in the back of your thigh.

Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat three times. Breathe deeply as you stretch. This helps your muscles relax into the stretch.

5. Shoulder Stretch

Shoulder stretches help increase the motion in the shoulder joints. For cerebral palsy patients, shoulder stretches can help reduce tension and make daily tasks easier.

As one of cerebral palsy exercises, try this simple shoulder stretch:

  • Stand or sit with your back straight.
  • Extend one arm overhead and bend the elbow.
  • Grasp the elbow of the extended arm to pull it towards the opposite side.
  • Hold for 30 seconds and release.
  • Do 2-3 reps on each side.

Some benefits of shoulder stretches include:

  • Improved posture.
  • Reduced pain from muscle tension or spasms.
  • Easier mobility and daily function.
  • Prevention of muscle contractures that can limit movement.

Cerebral Palsy Exercises for Cardiovascular Health

Cerebral palsy can impact cardiovascular health, as limited mobility may reduce physical activity. Luckily, performing these cerebral palsy exercises has notable benefits for those with CP. Here are some options to try:

6. Wheelchair Aerobics

If you have cerebral palsy that primarily impacts your legs or one side of your body, wheelchair aerobics can be your key. It stresses the upper body move from a seated position.

Do wheelchair aerobics 2-3 times a week. Be sure to start slowly and avoid overexertion. But check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program. With regular practice of simple exercises, wheelchair aerobics promote health and independence.

7. Dancing

One of the most effective cerebral palsy exercises is dancing. Dancing provides aerobic exercise that helps improve balance, coordination, and flexibility. 

Put on some upbeat music and move to the rhythm. Even subtle movements made often can provide therapeutic benefits. Start slowly and build up intensity over time as endurance improves.

Cerebral Palsy Physical Exercises

Regular physical activity and exercises can help reduce spasticity, prevent contractures, and support mobility. Some recommended exercises for cerebral palsy include:

8. Wheelchair Pushes

When living with cerebral palsy, exercising is vital for your health and mobility. Wheelchair pushes are an effective cerebral palsy physical exercise you can do anywhere.

Here’s how you should do it:

Upper Body Pushes

To strengthen your upper body, push your wheelchair using the hand rims. Start pushing for 2-3 minutes, taking breaks as needed. Over time, build up your endurance. Some tips include:

  • Push at a pace that challenges you without straining. Increase your speed and distance gradually.
  • Push with one hand at a time, alternating, to work each arm.
  • For an added challenge, push up hills or slight inclines. The extra effort will boost your strength.
  • Use wrist weights for extra resistance. Start with just 1-2 pounds and build up slowly.

Whole Body Pushes

For a full-body workout, try pushing with your hands and using your feet to propel the wheels. This works your leg and core muscles in addition to your arms.

9. Wheelchair Push-Ups

Wheelchair push-ups are a great exercise for building upper body strength in people with cerebral palsy. This helps strengthen your chest, shoulders, and triceps. To do wheelchair push-ups:

  • Place your hands on the armrests of your wheelchair, shoulder-width apart.
  • Keep your back straight and bend your elbows to lower your chest towards the chair seat.
  • Push back up by straightening your arms to return to the starting position.
  • Start with three sets of 5-10 reps. Work your way up as you build strength.

10. Resistance Band Training

Resistance bands, also known as therapy bands or exercise bands, provide progressive resistance during workouts. This helps strengthen muscles in a controlled manner.

Some recommended resistance band exercises for cerebral palsy include:

Band Walks

Place a resistance band around your ankles. Bend your knees and keep your back straight. Step sideways to walk with resistance. This helps strengthen hips and legs.

Seated Band Rows

  • In a seated position on the edge of a chair, extend your legs outward.
  • Loop a resistance band under the chair and hold an end in each hand. 
  • Bend forward at the hips with your back straight and pull the band up through your shoulder blades. 
  • Squeeze your back muscles at the top and slowly return to the starting position. This targets your back muscles.

11. Moving with Weighted Cuffs

Weighted cuffs, also known as wrist weights or ankle weights, can be useful tools for cerebral palsy exercises. The additional weight provides extra resistance during movements, which helps strengthen muscles.

When using weighted cuffs for exercise, start with a lower weight, such as 1 to 3 pounds per cuff. You can build up the weight over time as your strength improves. Only wear the cuffs during supervised exercise sessions, not all day.

12. Aquatic Exercises

Aquatic exercises, or water therapy, provide buoyancy and resistance for people with cerebral palsy. Water supports the body, easing stress on the joints and muscles. Here are some effective aquatic exercises for cerebral palsy:

Walking in Water

Take slow laps around the pool, holding onto the wall or pool edge for balance if needed. The water reduces weight on the joints. This allows for freer movement.

Treading Water

Treading water works the entire body. Make circular motions with your arms while kicking your legs. This helps strengthen core muscles that provide stability and balance. 


Swimming is an excellent full-body workout for people with cerebral palsy. Do freestyle strokes, backstrokes, or breaststrokes based on your abilities. Kickboards, pool noodles, and water dumbbells can provide extra support. Swim at your own pace for the best results.

Manage Cerebral Palsy through Cerebral Palsy Exercises 

Cerebral palsy, a group of permanent movement disorders appearing in early childhood, affects body movement, muscle coordination, and balance. Although there’s no cure for cerebral palsy, engaging in regular cerebral palsy exercises presents a beacon of hope for individuals managing this condition. These exercises are tailored to meet the unique needs of each person, focusing on enhancing their quality of life through improved physical capabilities.

Initiating an exercise regimen designed specifically for cerebral palsy can significantly improve strength, flexibility, and overall independence for those living with the condition. Exercises for cerebral palsy often encompass a wide range of activities, including stretching exercises to enhance flexibility, strength-building routines for increased muscle tone and control, and aerobic exercises to improve cardiovascular health. These activities are not only vital for physical health but also play an important role in boosting confidence and fostering a sense of well-being.

It’s crucial, however, to start slowly and remain consistent with cerebral palsy exercises. Gradual progression allows the body to adapt to new challenges without overwhelming it, thereby minimizing the risk of injury. A therapist specialized in cerebral palsy can offer invaluable guidance, creating personalized exercise plans that cater to individual needs and goals.

Patience is key when it comes to seeing results from exercises for cerebral palsy. Progress may appear gradual, but with perseverance, significant improvements can be achieved. Individuals may notice enhancements in their ability to perform daily activities, reduced dependence on assistive devices, and an overall improvement in life quality. Moreover, engaging in regular physical activity can combat common cerebral palsy-related issues, such as joint stiffness and muscle spasms, making daily tasks more manageable.

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