Along with these guidelines, it is also important to stimulate discussion on future research issues that will encourage other investigators to develop a better understanding of the fitness needs of persons with cerebral palsy. In a recent article, Rimmer, Braddock and Pitetti emphasized the need for more exercise-related research on persons with disabilities:
There is a pressing need to study the activity patterns and physiological responses to exercise in persons with disabilities. The biggest challenge ahead for exercise scientists will be to find ways to get people with disabilities more involved in physical activity, particularly persons with intellectual disability, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, spinal cord injured, autism, and traumatic brain injury. If the discipline of exercise physiology is going to have an impact on the lives of Americans with physical and mental disabilities, questions concerning exercise testing and exercise prescription guidelines, and barriers to participation in physical activity and fitness programs by specific groups of individuals with disabilities, must be addressed in future research. (Rimmer, Braddock, & Pitetti.)
A few research recommendations are listed below:
- Most of the research on resistance training and cerebral palsy has focused on children and adolescents. There is virtually no research on functional outcomes of resistance training in middle-aged and older adults with cerebral palsy.
- Longitudinal studies demonstrating the effects of training in persons with cerebral palsy are direly needed. Aside from one Swedish study with children completed over a decade ago, there are no fitness intervention studies in the literature that have lasted more than two months.
- The relationship between physical fitness and health outcomes in persons with cerebral palsy must be studied. We know very little about the long-term impact of exercise on the overall health (i.e., body fat, blood lipids, blood pressure, functional mobility) of persons with cerebral palsy.
- More research is needed on flexibility training. Amazingly, the exercise literature is void of training studies with persons with cerebral palsy.
- Body composition data on persons with cerebral palsy are also absent. Research using field-based (i.e., skinfolds) and laboratory instruments (i.e., DEXA) to assess body composition is needed.
- Most of the fitness literature has been completed on children with cerebral palsy. A greater emphasis must be made to study young and older adults with cerebral palsy.
- Research is needed to evaluate the determinants of exercise and barriers to exercise in persons with cerebral palsy.
- Training modalities that are optimal for improving fitness in persons with cerebral palsy must be explored. Also, accessibility of fitness equipment and fitness programs for a wide range of disabilities must be examined.