Climbing exercises help children with cerebral palsy function better, according to a study in Denmark.
Researchers said climbing strengthens the link between the brain and muscles, increasing children’s ability to perform day-to-day activities.
The children used an indoor climbing gym that included boulder climbing and wall climbing courses.
The study, “To be active through indoor-climbing: an exploratory feasibility study in a group of children with cerebral palsy and typically developing children,” was published in the journal BMC Neurology.
Climbing requires several physical and mental skills, including strength, endurance, using stable posture, technique, balance, coordination, paying attention to what you’re doing, and selecting appropriate routes. This makes is a good rehabilitation activity.
“Climbing can be a sports activity for almost every child, including children with physical disability and cognitive deficit,” the researchers wrote. “For children with severe physical disability specific climbing platforms [have] been developed.”
The team followed 11 children with cerebral palsy, aged 11-13, and six healthy children who were participating in an intensive indoor-climbing training program for three weeks. Each of the nine training sessions lasted 2 1/2 hours.
Researchers assessed the children’s physical and cognitive abilities and their psychological health before and after the climbing course.
Both the children with cerebral palsy and the healthy children were able to climb better after the training. Children with CP were able to cover more of the climbing routes than they did before the training. The healthy children were able to climb faster.
Children with cerebral palsy also made significant improvements in scores on sit-to-stand, hand force, and muscular activity tests. They did not show any significant improvements in cognitive and psychological-health tests, however.
“Climbing training seems to be a way to engage children with CP in many weekly hours of physical activity in a fun and motivating way that may help improve climbing skills, muscle strength, balance, as well as mental and social skills,” the researchers concluded. “The improved motor abilities obtained through the training” are likely the result of “increased synchronization between cortex and muscles, which results in a more efficient motor unit recruitment that may be transferred to daily functional abilities.”