Spina bifida is the most common neural tube defect in the United States, which is characterized by an incomplete development of the brain, spinal cord, or the meninges (NINDS, 2005). Spina bifida has four different types that affect individuals; however, all types benefit from regular exercise to reduce pain and increase comfort. Individuals with spina bifida need to develop upper body strength, endurance and flexibility. 

According to the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability, people with spina bifida should exercise five times a week and stretch three to four times a week (NCPAD, 2007). Exercises promote strength, mobility, and physical development in individuals with spina bifida, especially if you are in a wheelchair (NCPAD, 2007). Exercise is important for people with spinal cord injuries because it can help prevent secondary conditions such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, pressure sores, carpal tunnel syndrome, hypertension, urinary tract infections, and respiratory disease (PE Central, 2007).

Bones are strengthened, joints are lubricated, and muscles are strengthened when individuals with spina bifida exercise soon after birth and continue throughout their lives (Healthwise, 2005). People with spina bifida can do many stretches. It is important to stretch your whole body, including your neck, wrists, arms, triceps, biceps, elbows, trunk, hamstrings, and hips while seated on a chair or in a wheelchair (NCPAD, 2007). Flexibility training is important to increase the range of motion and reduce spasticity (PE Central, 2007). 

Strength training should be done at least three days a week to prevent injury and maintain the ability to do routine tasks (PE Central, 2007). Upper body pushing and pulling exercises will help with weight transfers and pushing a wheelchairhttp://www.therapeuticexercisela.com/ Rowing exercises help with posture and preventing shoulder injuries (PE Central, 2007). 

Depression can affect anyone, but individuals with spina bifida can have symptoms of depression from a variety of health ailments, such as a shunt malfunction or infection. (SBA, 2006). According to the Spina Bifida Association, some studies show that there is an increase in depression among individuals with this disorder because they are at higher risk for depression and have lower self worth. Many other studies show that exercise can have a large effect on depression (SBA, 2006). Wheelchair sports programs and other group athletic exercises are great for many people with spina bifida because they provide social contact and physical activity, which leads to a decrease in the individual's depression.