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Overview of Epilepsy

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This condition is a chronic disorder characterized by recurrent seizures. The seizures can be partial or generalized, depending on the extent that the brain is affected by abnormal electrical activity. There are numerous causes for seizures, but the majority of epilepsy cases are idiopathic. Epilepsy does not directly produce endurance impairments, but the secondary effects and medications are associated with decreased physical activities. The effect of exercise as a positive or negative influence on seizure frequency in unknown.1 Individuals, especially children, avoid physical and group activities that may be dangerous or embarrassing if a seizure occurs.2,3

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Comorbidities to Consider

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  • Clients with symptomatic epilepsy may have neurologic conditions that significantly affect their mobility and ability to participate in exercise activities.

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Client Examination

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Keys to Examination of Clients

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  • An electroencephalogram helps with the diagnosis and classification of epilepsy.

  • Determine if clients have mobility limitations or a history of physical conditions.

  • Discuss with clients their beliefs about and experience with physical activities.

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Recommended Baseline Testing of Fitness Levels

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  • Aerobic capacity can be assessed with submaximal tests using walking and cycle ergometry.

  • Develop baseline assessments of posture, balance, and flexibility before prescribing an exercise program.

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Exercise Prescription

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Type: Walking, bicycling, weight training, swimming

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Intensity: Moderate to high levels

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Duration: 30–50 minutes

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Frequency: Three to four times per week

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Getting Started

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Individuals with epilepsy can participate in most modes of exercise, as a seizure induced by exercise is relatively uncommon.1 Because individuals with epilepsy have been found to have fitness levels below normal levels, aerobic training for the benefit of cardiovascular health and weight control is commonly advised for these individuals. Individuals with epilepsy are advised to avoid extreme environmental conditions, which may be dangerous in the event of a seizure. Exercising in high temperature and high humidity should be avoided, as hyperthermia has been associated with the onset of seizure. Resistance training along with a variety of recreational activities to improve fitness can be utilized.2 Participation in contact sports or sports with the potential for collisions should be cleared by a client's physician. After a seizure event, individuals may be advised to avoid physical exertions for a period of a few weeks. Clients should be encouraged to try different types of exercise to develop lifelong exercise behaviors.

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References

1. +
Arida  RM, Cavalheiro  EA, daSilva  AC,  et al. Physical activity and epilepsy. Sports Med 38(7):607–615, 2008.  [PubMed: 18557661]
2. +
Wong  J, Wirrell  E. Physical activity in children/teens with epilepsy compared with that in their siblings without epilepsy. Epilepsia 47(3):631–639, 2006.  [PubMed: 16529632]
3. +
Nakken  KO. ...

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