Adolescents and young adults with disability have much to gain from participating in exercise. Being physically active can help people maintain a healthy body weight, prevent physical decline and increase social connectedness. Many young people with disability, however, have sedentary lifestyles despite the known benefits of exercise. The reasons for their lack of participation in exercise are complex and multifactorial, and include many socio-ecological in addition to personal factors. This presentation will provide an overview of available evidence for the benefits of exercise for young people with disability; it will highlight emerging implementation research on inclusive community-based exercise and physical activity options for young people with disability; and it will consider future research that would help facilitate the participation of youth with disability, particularly those with complex disability, in exercise and physical activity in everyday community settings.
Nora Shields is a Professor of Physiotherapy at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. Her research aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people with disability by increasing their participation in exercise and physical activity. She has expertise in managing clinical trials involving young people with physical and intellectual disability, including a large randomised controlled trial investigating the effects of strength training for adolescents and young adults with Down syndrome. This trial led to the development of the innovative, evidence-based ‘FitSkills’ program in Melbourne that facilitates young people with disability to exercise with a student mentor at their local gym. Nora has a strong track record in research publications, community engagement, and research student supervision and is a past director on the board of Disability Sport and Recreation (Victoria, Australia).
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