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Development of run/walk training programs for adults with mental retardation.

Development of Run/Walk Training Programs For Adults With Mental Retardation


If adults with mental retardation (MR) are to improve their inferior fitness levels in order to lead more productive and healthy life styles, then programs of health related physical fitness (HRPF) must be developed. While run/walk fitness programs are easy to administer and have demonstrated HRPF benefits with the general population, a number of unique factors exist when introducing these programs to persons with MR. In general, because persons with MR possess below average cognitive ability and limited past involvement in structured programs of physical activity, they may lack the skills and fitness levels necessary to successfully complete such a training program. More specifically, a lack of proper pacing techniques and the inability to cope with breathlessness and fatigue during a run or walk may interfere with program participation. For these reasons, to date, the research is limited regarding development of run/walk programs for persons with MR. Another issue, which has not been adequately addressed in the literature, relates to maintenance once fitness levels for persons with MR are reached, without elaborate forms of supervision.

The Study

The purpose of the study was to develop a systematic 28-week run/walk program to determine the run/walk performance of 13 adults (X=37 years and X=53 IQ) with MR residing and working in a rural community in the midwest. The actual program was 30 weeks in duration, meeting 3 times per week, with two weeks to determine pretest and post-test measures, 22 weeks of a structured 30-minute run/walk program, which included running partners as well as warm-up and cool down exercises, followed by a 6-week maintenance phase with limited supervision.


Research results revealed a significant (p<0.05) difference between the pretest and post-test period and the pretest, maintenance period on the performance of the Cooper 12-Minute run/walk test. In addition, a significant difference was determined in the pretest, post-test performance of sit-ups.

Program Application

In general, run/walk programs must be designed and administered which meet the unique and individualized needs of persons with MR. This includes developing safe, progressive, highly structured, and motivational programs.

More specifically:

* The first and foremost consideration of any exercise program must be safety. Programs should carefully adhere to exercise procedures outlined by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM); i.e., participants engaging in proper warm-up and cool down exercises before and after the actual run/walk program. Exercises should be avoided that are contraindicated; i.e., straight leg sit-ups. This study followed ACSM guidelines and adults were trained to perform all exercises safely on their own, as well as periodically leading the group through a warm-up or cool down session.

* Exercise and resting pulse rate checks should be taken prior to, during, and after the actual run/walk session. In this study pulse rate checks were not only important from a safety standpoint, but enabled supervisors to determine if participants were actually exercising within their own prescribed intensity level.

* Properly pacing one's self while run/walking is a unique and abstract concept for may persons with MR. They may display difficulty coping with breathlessness and fatigue, staying motivated, and demonstrating knowledge necessary to maintain proper pace. Run/walk partners were used to assist proper run/walk form, pacing techniques, and to provide participants with encouragement and feedback.

* Distance criteria goals need to be gradual, self-paced, and individualized. Study established a baseline run/walk distance score by averaging distance completed by each adult during the first 6 weeks of the program (18 sessions). Each subsequent month new criteria goals were established for each adult by averaging the number of laps completed over the 12 sessions. Participants seemed to understand the concept of goal setting as the majority met or exceeded their established criteria goals.

* To maintain motivation the program should include some form of contingency management reinforcement plan consisting of rewards idiosyncratic to each participant. Herein, each adult who met his/her monthly goal earned the privilege of selecting an activity; i.e., frisbee golf, attending a basketball game with the run/walk partner.

* Maintenance of the program on their own, with limited supervision, should be stressed. During the last 6 weeks participants ran/walked without their partners and with only the program coordinator present to count laps. A 24-hour recall timer was pinned to each pair of shorts or shirt, programmed to ring at the end of the 30-minute run/walk session.

* Most importantly, additional research is needed to assure effective HRPF testing and training programs for persons with MR.

Complete Details

Lavay, B., Zody, J., Solko, C., & Era, K. (1990). The effect of a seven month run/walk program on the physiological fitness parameters of adults with mental retardation. In Doll-Tepper, G.C. Dahms, Doll, B., von Selzam, H. (Eds.) Adapted physical activity: An interdisciplinary approach. Heildberg Springer.

Lavay, B. & McKenzie, T. (1990). Development and evaluation of a systematic run/walk program for men with mental retardation. Manuscript submitted for publication.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Challenge Publications Limited
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Jan 1, 1991
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