Embedding sustainable physical activities into the everyday lives of adults with intellectual disabilities: A randomised controlled trial

Summary

A three-arm randomised controlled trial (RCT) has been completed, and the collected data is now ready for analysis. Ninety adults with intellectual disability aged 18-55 were randomly assigned to one of three groups:                    

  1. a lifestyle physical activity group (n = 30),   
  2. a structured exercise group (n = 30),   
  3. a usual care control group (n = 30).   

Participants in both exercise groups received a 12-week intervention delivered by exercise specialists in the community with disability service staff, followed by a period of self-adhered exercise.
Primary outcomes were aerobic fitness, 12-hour energy expenditure, and proxy-reported everyday physical activity. 

Secondary outcomes included objectively assessed physical activity and sedentary behaviour, intervention compliance, functional walking capacity, participation in domestic activities, muscle strength, body composition, psychosocial outcomes, quality of life and health care costs

Supervisor(s)

Professor Glen Davis

Research Location

Exercise, Health and Performance Research Group

Program Type

Masters/PHD

Synopsis

Adults with intellectual disability (ID) are substantially less physically active than the general community, which may contribute to preventable physical and mental health problems. In Australia, the proportion of adults with ID who meet national guidelines for physical activity (PA) is only around half that of the general community. Our project sought to increase these adults' PA, fitness and well-being.

Most people with intellectual disability need support to participate in PA. Disability staff can provide support, but without training, they lack the skills to support activity of the needed intensity and duration. Structured PA programs can produce short-term benefits in adults with intellectual disability, but no research has reported sustained improvements. Our challenge was to identify PA that adults with intellectual disability would do regularly, and to enable disability staff to sustain these activities.

We compared three groups:

  • A lifestyle approach [LIFESTYLE] - 150 minutes per week of PA was accumulated through active individual participation in everyday activities, such as walking
  • Structured exercise training [STRUCTURED] involving 3 small-group structured exercise sessions per week, totalling 150 minutes of exercise
  • Usual-care control group [CONTROL] who did not exercise

Due to delays with the complex research data, analyses are not yet finished, and these would be the primary responsibility of the Research Student. 
Primary outcomes were aerobic fitness, 12-hour energy expenditure, and proxy-reported everyday physical activity.                                                                                                                                                 
Secondary outcomes included objectively assessed physical activity and sedentary behaviours, intervention compliance, functional walking capacity, participation in domestic activities, muscle strength, body composition, psychosocial outcomes, quality of life and health care costs.                                                   
Importantly, the research student(s) would select from these primary and secondary outcomes those of interest for their study, since not all would be expected within Masters/Doctoral study.                                
The student may wish to (but not required) undertake a small study of ID adults and exercise of their own, and we have suggested a complementary study within the thesis which might be 
  1. Validation of the study-deployed aerobic fitness and strength predictive measures against physiological "best practice" approaches to these outcomes
  2. Modifying and validating a Barriers to Exercise for Disability (B-PADS) questionnaire for individuals with intellectual disability and their carers
  3. Qualitative interviews in perceived barriers and uptake of exercise with subsequent "saturation of themes" analysis

Additional Information

  1. Study data collection has been completed - research activity will be predominantly data analysis, thesis writing (using the thesis-by-publications model) and publication of manuscripts. 
  2. There is casual funding available for some of the duration of the Masters/PhD tenure (estimated 1-2 days per week) 
  3. There is no funding for international fees or living expenses (scholarship not available)

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Keywords

Disability, mental retardation, exercise, exercise training, physical fitness, aerobic, strength, Exercise physiology, community-based rehabilitation, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Intellectual disability

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 2330

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