“eSPECIALly fit”: A tailored exercise program for people with an intellectual disability




Lynnes, Michelle

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People with an intellectual disability have high levels of sedentary behaviour (Temple, Frey, & Stanish, 2006) and health conditions associated with inactivity such as cardiovascular disease (Draheim, 2006) and obesity (Rimmer & Yamaki, 2006). Physical activity has been identified as one of the most successful strategies used to decrease these health risks. Four participants with an intellectual disability were recruited from the Special Olympics Athletic Club and participated in a 9-week strength and aerobic exercise program which consisted of a face-to-face program and an at-home component. During the face-to-face program participants took part in an aerobic warm up, strength training using exercise bands, skill development, and games. The strength skills were introduced progressively over the 9-weeks and were analyzed for mastery at the end of each face-to-face session using a procedural task analysis check list. Mastery was reached if participants completed a skill three consecutive times with no prompting. However, once a skill was completed with no more then visual prompting it was added to the at-home component of the program. At the end of each face-to-face session participants planned two additional days per week to exercise in their homes. The at-home component included an interactive exercise DVD that mirrored the strength and aerobics exercises introduced at the face-to-face program. Completion of the planned exercises was confirmed by self-report in log books and conversation with the researcher during prompting telephone calls. Pre and post tests for self-efficacy and a program satisfaction questionnaire were also conducted. Three participants reached mastery for biceps curls and one participant reached mastery for triceps extensions and back leg raises. Three participants completed all six strength exercises and one participant completed four exercise skills with no more than visual prompting. Participants required less prompting as the weeks progressed even with an increase in the number of skill components being tested. Adherence to the at-home component of the program for each participant was: 100%, 94%, 94%, and 28%. A dependent t-test revealed that self-efficacy toward exercise did not significantly increase from pre-test (M = 12.1) to post-test (M = 13.3) t (3) = 2.03, p = .14. These findings suggest that adults with an intellectual disability can acquire exercise band strength skills in a relatively short period of time and some participants are able to utilize these skills consistently at home. Participants in the current study failed to improve their self-efficacy toward exercise; however pre-test self-efficacy scores were quite high.



Exercise, Intellectual Disability