PURPOSE: This study examined the feasibility, safety, and effectiveness of a community-based group fitness program for children with disabilities.
METHODS: Twenty-eight children with neuromuscular and developmental disabilities, 6 to 14 years of age, participated. The 16-week community-based program, held twice weekly, consisted of strengthening, aerobic conditioning, and flexibility exercises. A pretest-posttest design was used, and the following outcomes were measured: isometric muscle strength of the knee extensors, hip abductors, and ankle plantarflexors, walking energy expenditure, functional mobility, and fitness. Falls and injury data also were collected.
RESULTS: Mean program attendance was 75.3%, and no injuries were reported. Improvements in all clinical outcomes were observed. The most clinically meaningful improvement was in functional mobility with a large effect size (0.87).
CONCLUSIONS: Physical therapists partnering with community centers may feasibly and safely shift group fitness programs for school-aged children with disabilities from the medical setting to the community.