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The physical and psychosocial impact of a school-based running programme for adolescents with disabilities.

BACKGROUND: Adolescents with disabilities have fewer opportunities to participate in community-based fitness programmes. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of a school-based running programme at a local middle school in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, on fitness and quality of life (QoL) in children with physical and cognitive disabilities in a life-skills classroom.

METHODS: Nineteen adolescents with diagnosed disabilities including intellectual disability (ID), autism spectrum disorder and Down syndrome were recruited from three life-skills classrooms to participate in a school-based running programme. The programme was designed to be implemented two times/week for 6 weeks by classroom teachers/aides. Physical therapy faculty and students developed the programme and assisted with implementation. Each session lasted 30 min, consisting of a warm-up and cooldown, relay races, games and timed runs. Pre- and post-test measures included physiological cost index (PCI) and Paediatric Quality of Life Inventory™ (PedsQL™). Pre- and post-test data were compared using Wilcoxon signed rank tests. Each week participants also completed a training log to reflect on the activity for the day.

RESULTS: Participants demonstrated significant improvements in PCI (P = 0.028) and the PedsQL™ (P = 0.008) following the running programme.

CONCLUSIONS: Results of this study suggest that participation in a 6-week school-based running programme may improve fitness and QoL in adolescents with disabilities.

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