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Sophie Christiansen OBE visits Sparks running-bikes project for children with cerebral palsy


Triple gold medal winning Paralympian Sophie Christiansen OBE, visited children at Chailey Heritage Clinical Services in Lewes yesterday to see Petra running-bikes in action. This project, funded by the children’s medical research charity Sparks and supported by Virgin Active Health Clubs, aims to find out whether children with cerebral palsy can benefit from using individually adapted running-bikes.

Liz Bryant, Senior Research Fellow at Chailey Heritage said: “Children with cerebral palsy have very limited opportunities to participate in exercise. The funding from Sparks will enable us to investigate whether novel devices such as running-bikes are a feasible and enjoyable mode of exercise and to determine their clinical benefit for children who are unable to walk independently. These running-bikes have the potential to allow children with cerebral palsy to take part in physical activity, as well as giving them freedom of movement and independence.”

Around 1 in 400 children are affected by cerebral palsy in the UK with around 1,800 new cases each year. Children with cerebral palsy are more prone to lower limb muscle weakness, which contributes to pain, deformity and functional loss. Petra running-bikes have a unique design that supports the child’s posture and it is hoped that they will improve muscle and bone strength.

Sophie Christiansen OBE said: “As a Sparks Ambassador I’m delighted to be part of the first preview of the Petra running-bike that Sparks is helping to fund for children throughout the UK. Like Sparks, I share the vision of a world where all children are given the best possible start in life and where a medical condition or disability at birth is not a barrier to opportunity and fulfilment. Being born prematurely and with cerebral palsy has never stopped me achieving my dreams, whether it’s been in academics or in the competition arena. This innovative bike will give children with severe cerebral palsy the chance to try out an engaging and new form of exercise that could increase their physical fitness and improve quality of life. It also, after seeing the children’s demonstration, gives them the chance to run around with their friends and have fun!”

“I became a Sparks Ambassador as I want to help raise awareness for the need to invest more into children’s medical research. This in turn will help improve the quality of life for children and families affected by serious illness or disability”.

Helen Farquharson, Sparks regional fundraiser for Sussex said: “Sparks is proud to be funding this project and we hope it will be hugely beneficial for children with cerebral palsy. At Sparks we aim for all children to be born healthy and stay healthy but we need help to fund projects like this one.

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