Positive results in pilot study trialing exercycle in youth with CP

July 9, 2014

Youth with CP can improve their cardiovascular fitness through an internet-platform exergame cycling program developed by NeuroDevNet and GRAND NCE researchers.

"An innovative cycling exergame to promote cardiovascular fitness in youth with cerebral palsy: A brief report" was published online June 20 in Developmental Rehabilitation.

"The research has shown an increase in cardiovascular fitness - we really do drive their heart rate up," said Dr. Darcy Fehlings, lead author of the study, and co-lead of NeuroDevNet's Cerebral Palsy Research Group.

Eight youths with bilateral (both sides of the body affected) spastic CP participated in the pilot prospective case series. Over the first year of development of Liberi, researchers made continual adjustments to the exercycle to enable the study participants to power up the videogame via pedaling.

Co-principal investigator Dr. Nicholas Graham at Queen's University said that initially, only two of the eight participants were able to operate the exercycle. With modification over the course of a year, seven out of eight of the participants could pedal the cycle.

Though the published study focuses on cardiovascular outcomes, and the excercycle as a means of potentially countering the loss of muscular strength and fitness among teens with CP as they grow to adult stature, Dr. Fehlings also highlights the social benefits of the Liberi exergame. Connected via internet chat and booking multiplayer dates via Facebook made teens in the study feel less isolated, she said.

Hopes for Liberi are to take the technology out in to the world and into the marketplace, to get teens with CP and other neurodisabilities, as well as typical teens, playing and cycling together, all over the world. In the meantime, the small size of the pilot warrants a larger study with a comparison group, according to the authors of June's brief report.