The Role of Active Exercise in Neuromuscular Disease

The role of active exercise in spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is to help the children improve their:

  • Flexibility
  • Function
  • Independence
  • Quality of life

The literature supporting strength training in SMA is limited. Historically, physicians and physical therapists have advised patients with neuromuscular disease (NMD) to avoid physical activity due to the  possibility of overwork and exercise-induced muscle damage.

Because more recent studies have provided evidence that active exercise is safe and potentially beneficial, in both animal models and humans with NMD, it is certainly safe to recommend to children with SMA. Practicing movements and daily tasks that the children normally perform throughout the day is called functional exercise.

Movements or positions that the child is currently performing and would like to strengthen in order to improve their activity in daily life include:  rolling, reaching, sitting , standing, transferring, and walking. These exercises are considered to be functional exercise.  An evaluation of the child and a pertinent home exercise program can be issued by the Physical Therapist and can be updated according to the child’s needs.

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