Exercise Intervention Research on Persons with Disabilities. What We Know and Where We Need to Go.
Rimmer, JH, Chen, M-D., McCubbin, JA., Drum, C., & Peterson, J... (2010). Exercise Intervention Research on Persons with Disabilities. What We Know and Where We Need to Go. American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, 89, 249-263.
Evidence has shown that physical activity can reduce both health risks and improve well-being. However, there is a lack of evidence on the impact of physical activity on various health issues for varying disability groups. This study aimed to assess the research on physical activity interventions for disability groups from previous years, and to make research recommendations for the future.
Articles were only included if they were dated between 1986 through July 2006, were peer-reviewed, and dealt with health promotion for people with disabilities. Articles were excluded if they included participants younger than 18 or greater than 65 years of age, thus accounting for any age related health factors. Articles were further reduced by only including those that met the following three conditions:
- Health outcomes as dependent variables
- The physical activity program could be done in a community based setting.
After all the qualifications were satisfied, 80 studies were included in this study.
Each of the 80 articles was classified by type of study, type of exercise and targeted health outcomes. Of these articles, the majority focused on stroke (16), followed by multiple sclerosis (12). Thirty two of the articles were randomized controlled trials, and 21 were focused on aerobic training. Fifty of the articles were categorized as "functional health" in the health outcome category.
Aerobic exercise was the most common intervention for participants with stroke, muscular dystrophy and Parkinson's disease; while strength training was more common for those with multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and polio.
For those with intellectual disabilities, the primary focus was to improve musculoskeletal and metabolic health. For those with Alzheimer's disease, the focus was on mental health. Functional health was the most common health outcome, especially for those with stroke, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease.
These results show that there is a gap in research focused in the area of physical activity and disability. It was also found that positive results were seldom ever duplicated in other studies. Given the rarity of some of the disability groups studied, it may be difficult to obtain a large enough sample size to conduct adequate studies. This study did not include studies that involved other health promotion facets, such as nutrition. There needs to be future research that focuses on specific disabilities and varies the doses of exercises to determine the effects.