Purpose: To evaluate the physical strain of comfortable walking in children with mild cerebral palsy (CP) in comparison to typically developing (TD) children. Physical strain was defined as the oxygen uptake during walking (VO(2walk)) expressed as a percentage of their maximal aerobic capacity (VO(2peak)).
Method: Eighteen children (aged 8-16 years) participated, including eight ambulant children (four girls, four boys) with mild spastic CP (three hemiplegia, five diplegia, GMFCS I: n = 7 and II: n = 1) and 10 TD children. VO(2walk) was measured during 5 min of walking on an indoor track at comfortable walking speed. VO(2peak) was measured in a shuttle run test.
Results: VO(2walk) was significantly higher in CP (19.7 (2.8) ml/kg/min) compared to TD (16.8 (3.6) ml/kg/min, p = 0.033), while walking speed did not differ significantly between groups. VO(2peak) was significantly lower in CP (37.2 (2.2) ml/kg/min) compared to TD (45.0 (5.3) ml/kg/min, p = 0.001). Consequently, the physical strain during walking was significantly higher in CP (52 (7.7) %) compared to TD (36 (8.4) %, p = 0.001).
Conclusions: The higher physical strain during comfortable walking of children with mild CP compared to TD children may be related to reported problems with fatigue in this population, and suggest a need for physical aerobic training programmes.