Objective: To describe in detail the health-related physical fitness of adolescents and young adults with cerebral palsy, compared with able-bodied references, and to assess differences related to Gross Motor Functioning Classification System (GMFCS) level and distribution of cerebral palsy.
Subjects: Fifty ambulatory persons with spastic cerebral palsy, GMFCS level I or II, aged 16-24 years.
Methods: Physical fitness measures were: (i) cardiopulmonary fitness by maximal cycle ergometry, (ii) muscle strength, (iii) body mass index and waist circumference, (iv) skin-folds, and (v) lipid profile.
Results: Regression analyses, corrected for age and gender, showed that persons with bilateral cerebral palsy had lower cardiopulmonary fitness and lower hip abduction muscle strength than those with unilateral cerebral palsy. Comparisons between persons with GMFCS levels I and II showed a difference only in peak power during cycle ergometry. Cardiopulmonary fitness, hip flexion and knee extension strength were considerably lower (< 75%) in persons with cerebral palsy than reference values.
Conclusion: The distribution of cerebral palsy affects fitness more than GMFCS level does. Furthermore, adolescents and young adults with cerebral palsy have reduced health-related physical fitness compared with able-bodied persons. This stage of life has a strong influence on adult lifestyle, thus it is an important period for intervention.