Objective: To evaluate the effects of an 8-month training program with standardized exercises on aerobic and anaerobic capacity in children and adolescents with cerebral palsy.
Design: Pragmatic randomized controlled clinical trial with blinded outcome evaluation between July 2005 and October 2006.
Setting: Participants were recruited from 4 schools for special education in the Netherlands.
Participants: A total of 86 children with cerebral palsy (aged 7-18 years) classified at Gross Motor Function Classification System level I or II.
Intervention: Participants were randomly assigned to either the training group (n = 32) or the control group (n = 33). The training group met twice per week for 45 minutes to circuit train in a group format that focused on aerobic and anaerobic exercises.
Main outcome measures: Aerobic capacity was assessed by the 10-m shuttle run test, and anaerobic capacity was assessed by the Muscle Power Sprint Test. Secondary outcome measures included agility, muscle strength, self-competence, gross motor function, participation level, and health-related quality of life.
Results: A significant training effect was found for aerobic (P < .001) and anaerobic capacity (P = .004). A significant effect was also found for agility (P < .001), muscle strength (P < .001), and athletic competence (P = .005). The intensity of participation showed a similar effect for formal (P < .001), overall (P = .002), physical (P = .005), and skilled-based activities (P < .001). On the health-related quality of life measure, a significant improvement was found for the motor (P = .001), autonomy (P = .02), and cognition (P = .04) domains.
Conclusions: An exercise training program improves physical fitness, participation level, and quality of life in children with cerebral palsy when added to standard care.
Trial registration: isrctn.org Identifier: ISRCTN77274716.