A community-based exercise program to increase participation in physical activities among youth with disability: a feasibility study

Nora Shields, Roos van den Bos, Kirsty Buhlert-Smith, Luke Prendergast, Nicholas Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose: To evaluate the feasibility of a student-mentored community-based exercise program for youth with disability. Method: Nineteen youth (nine female; mean age 18 years) with disability (seven cerebral palsy, six Down syndrome, three spina bifida, two autism spectrum disorder, one spinal cord injury) were recruited. Each participant was matched with a student mentor and exercised twice a week for 12 weeks at their local gymnasium. Five domains of feasibility were assessed: demand, implementation, practicality, limited efficacy testing, and acceptability. Results: Demand comprised 55 expressions of interest. Demonstrating evidence of implementation, 91% of scheduled sessions were attended and training fidelity (comparing training load in weeks 1 and 12) showed exercise intensity significantly increased for strength and aerobic exercises. The program was practical with no major and 17 minor adverse events (e.g., muscle soreness). Limited efficacy testing was demonstrated by increased arm (4 kg, 95% CI: 1–7) and leg strength (43 kg, 95% CI: 24–62), walking endurance (80 m, 95% CI: 24–137), and improvement in three dimensions of health-related quality of life (autonomy, physical, and psychological well-being). The program was accepted very positively by participants. Conclusions: A student-mentored community-based exercise program feasibly engages youth with disability in community-based exercise.Implications for RehabilitationA 12-week community-based student-mentored exercise program for youth with disability is feasible.Exercising in a real-world setting with a student mentor has a positive effect on physical and psychological well-being of youth with disability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1152-1159
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Issue number10
Early online date17 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2019

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