Fostering Fitness among Staff and Caregivers
It will be extremely difficult to change the lifestyle patterns of persons with developmental disabilities if staff or family members are not proactive in encouraging physical activity participation. Increasing physical activity in various settings where persons with developmental disabilities reside will have a higher rate of success if the staff in these settings are willing and able to motivate the residents. It is important for staff and family members to continually emphasize the importance of exercise, and to encourage persons with developmental disabilities who are capable of traveling on their own to go to a fitness center without waiting for someone to drive them. There are literally tens of thousands of fitness centers nationwide that are often available within a few miles of most residences.
One viable way to increase physical activity participation among persons with developmental disabilities is to find support staff who are committed to improving the physical fitness levels of the residents they will be working with in the program. Hiring staff who are committed to fitness could be written into the job description. However, finding employees who have an interest in fitness may be difficult. If this is not feasible, conducting workshops and seminars that educate support staff and caregivers on the importance of physical activity and fitness may not only increase the interest level of their clientele or siblings, but it may also motivate them to improve their own fitness level. If you are successful in gaining the support of the caregiver or support staff, and are able to get them "hooked" on a health-enhancing lifestyle, the residents will have a greater likelihood of maintaining a higher level of physical activity.
Allowing support staff to exercise with the residents is another way to foster participation. Many adults with developmental disabilities enjoy being around the staff and may be more inclined to exercise if a staff member exercises with them.