Objective: To assess the differences in daily physical activity between children with spastic diplegia and healthy schoolchildren, to determine whether special physical activity programs are needed in the population with cerebral palsy.
Design: Cross-sectional design.
Setting: Children's rehabilitation center Franciscusoord (day care center) and elementary schools.
Subjects: Children with spastic diplegia (5 boys; mean (+/- SD) age 8.0 +/- 1.4 years; 9 ambulant, 1 wheelchair use) and healthy children (5 boys; mean (+/- SD) age 8.4 +/- 1.0 years).
Measurements: Total daily energy expenditure (TEE) and sleeping metabolic rate (SMR) were measured by the doubly labeled water technique and a respiration chamber. The TEE/SMR ratio was used as an index for the level of daily physical activity.
Results: The TEE/SMR ratio under normal daily conditions in the children with cerebral palsy (mean +/- SD): 1.56 +/- 0.19) was significantly lower (p < 0.05) than in their healthy peers (mean +/- SD: 1.83 +/- 0.23) and was similar to the TEE/SMR ratio in a room-sized chamber.
Conclusion: Children with spastic diplegia are considerably less active than their healthy peers. We recommend special physical activity programs for these children.