Peer guided exercise helps to improve fitness and social integration in adolescents with learning disabilities


We have posted elsewhere on this blog about the issue of overweight and obesity in people with learning disabilities, with the evidence about the extent of this problem building with every new study. The researchers in the study however, were looking at a particular approach to dealing with the issue through a programme of peer-guided exercise.

Research suggests that peer support is strongly associated with physical activity in adolescents without learning disabilities, and so the researchers in thos study looked at this in YMCA-based, peer-guided programme aimed at increasing health-related physical fitness among adolescents with learning disabilities.

They worked with a group of adolescents with learning disabilities and a group of peer partners without disabilities who provided reciprocal support during one hour of exercise sessions that included a range of activities, including aerobic exercises, weight training and a stretching routine.

The programme ran for 2 days a week over 15 weeks. The researchers carried out a range of pre- and post training fitness tests to examine the efficacy of the programme.

They found that the participants had significant improvements in a range of exercise outcomes, including sit-ups, 6-min walk and Body Mass Index measures. The attendance at the sessions was and most of the participants completed the aerobic and stretching exercises. Weight training exercises however were completed less consistently.

The authors conclude that this approach to peer-guided exercise helps with social social integration, provides instructional support and appeared to encourage participation in exercise in community settings.

Efficacy of a Peer-Guided Exercise Programme for Adolescents with Intellectual Disability, Stanish, H. & Temple, V. in Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 25: 319–328.

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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