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Professional and Disciplinary Status of Adapted Physical Activity

Greg Reid and Heidi Stanish

Adapted physical activity has debated its professional and disciplinary status, but agreement has not been achieved. As a means of objectively evaluating the field for evidence of discipline status, the contents of APAQ (all issues between 1984-2000) and Clinical Kinesiology (1991-2000) were reviewed and compared against four criteria of a discipline: unique knowledge base, methodology, theoretical framework, and terminology. The review indicated that adapted physical activity has a distinct knowledge base but borrows considerable terminology, research methodology, and theory from allied fields. This is likely a reflection of our history, which has been tied to medicine, kinesiology, physical and special education, and some therapies. We conclude that adapted physical activity is a professional field of study with a crossdisciplinary knowledge base, rather than a discipline in its own right.

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Accuracy of Pedometers and Walking Activity in Adults with Mental Retardation

Heidi I. Stanish

Walking is a common physical activity reported by individuals with mental retardation (MR). This study examined the accuracy and feasibility of pedometers for monitoring walking in 20 adults with MR. Also, step counts and distance walked were recorded for one week. Pedometer counts were highly consistent with actual step counts during normal and fast paced walking on two ground surfaces. Intraclass correlation coefficients were above .95. A t-test revealed no gender differences in walking activity. A 2 × 2 ANOVA indicated that participants with Down Syndrome (DS) accumulated significantly fewer step counts than those without DS and participants walked more on weekdays than weekends.

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Inclusive Physical Activity: A Lifetime of Opportunities

Heidi I. Stanish

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Assessment of Walking Activity Using a Pedometer and Survey in Adults with Mental Retardation

Heidi I. Stanish and Christopher C. Draheim

This study measured walking activity in 103 adults (65 males, 38 females) with mental retardation (MR) using two instruments. Participants wore a pedometer for seven consecutive days and were administered the NHANES III Physical Activity Survey. The mean weekly step count was 58,321 ± 26,896 and only 21.4% of the participants recorded 10,000 steps/day. There was no association between weekly step counts and walking bouts per week (r = .01) or walking min per week (r = -.01). Only 17.5% of the participants reported engaging in five bouts of MVPA per week totaling 30 min per bout. The percent agreement between participants meeting the recommended 10,000 steps/day and those meeting the recommended 30 min of MVPA five days per week was 68.9%.

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Physical Activity of Youth with Intellectual Disability: Review and Research Agenda

Georgia C. Frey, Heidi I. Stanish, and Viviene A. Temple

This review characterizes physical activity behavior in youth with intellectual disability (ID) and identifies limitations in the published research. Keyword searches were used to identify articles from MEDLINE, EBSCOhost Research Databases, Psych Articles, Health Source, and SPORT Discus, and ProQuest Dissertations and Theses up to June 2007. Data were extracted from each study using a template of key items that included participant population, study design, data source, and outcome measure. Nineteen manuscripts met the inclusion criteria. Findings were mixed, with various studies indicating that youth with ID have lower, similar, and higher physical activity levels than peers without disabilities. Only two studies provided enough information to determine that some youth with ID were meeting minimum physical activity standards. Significant methodological limitations prohibit clear conclusions regarding physical activity in youth with ID.

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U.S. Physical Activity Para Report Card for Children and Adolescents With Disabilities

Heidi Stanish, Samantha M. Ross, Byron Lai, Justin A. Haegele, Joonkoo Yun, and Sean Healy

The U.S. Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth has tracked 10 physical activity (PA) indicators common to the Active Healthy Kids Global Matrix since 2014. This article expands on the U.S. report cards by presenting PA indicator assessments among children and adolescents with disabilities. Grades for indicators were assigned based on a search of peer-reviewed articles presenting nationally representative data. The Global Matrix 3.0 benchmarks and grading framework guided the process. Grades for overall PA, sedentary behaviors, organized sports, and school were F, D+, D+, and D, respectively. Insufficient evidence existed to assign grades to the remaining six indicators. There is a need in the United States for targeted PA promotion strategies that are specific to children and adolescents with disabilities. Without a commitment to this effort across sectors and settings, the low grades identified in this para report card are expected to remain.

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Research Trends and Recommendations for Physical Activity Interventions Among Children and Youth With Disabilities: A Review of Reviews

Byron Lai, Eunbi Lee, Mayumi Wagatsuma, Georgia Frey, Heidi Stanish, Taeyou Jung, and James H. Rimmer

This scoping review synthesized reviews of physical activity (PA) interventions for children and youth with disabilities to highlight promising elements of effective interventions, research methodological limitations, and research priorities. Twenty studies were eligible and underwent three rounds of review by an expert panel. Rich and diverse PA programs derived potential short-term benefits toward health, function, and PA. Strategies to increase sample sizes included embedding programs in the community and using information communication technology to deliver exercise programs. Methodological limitations of interventions included a lack of generalizability, transferability, and scientific rigor. Three research priorities were identified: develop and report precision-based intervention strategies, identify strategies that promote both long-term and sustainable PA participation and outcomes, and develop scalable interventions and recruitment strategies. If addressed, these areas could enhance the impact of PA interventions for children and youth with disabilities.

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Participation of Adults with Mental Retardation in a Video- and Leader-Directed Aerobic Dance Program

Heidi I. Stanish, Jeffrey A. McCubbin, Christopher C. Draheim, and Hans van der Mars

The purpose was to compare two conditions (leader-plus-video, video-only) that involved different levels of support on facilitating engagement in moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) in adults with mental retardation (MR). Engagement was examined during 10-min aerobic dance sessions conducted 3 days per week over a 10-week experimental period followed by a 4-week maintenance period. The experimental design was single subject reversal (B-A-B-A). Participants were 17 adults (mean age = 42.6 years) with MR (5 females, 12 males) employed at a sheltered workshop. Visual analysis of graphed data revealed no meaningful difference between leader-plus-video and video-only conditions on MVPA engagement. Over 75% of the participants chose to attend each session over the 10-week experiment. Approximately 60% chose to attend during the 4-week maintenance period. Persons who attended, however, did not necessarily engage in MVPA.

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Enjoyment, Barriers, and Beliefs About Physical Activity in Adolescents With and Without Autism Spectrum Disorder

Heidi Stanish, Carol Curtin, Aviva Must, Sarah Phillips, Melissa Maslin, and Linda Bandini

The authors compared physical activity enjoyment, perceived barriers, beliefs, and self-efficacy between adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and typically developing (TD) adolescents. A questionnaire was verbally administered to 35 adolescents with ASD and 60 TD adolescents. Compared with TD adolescents, fewer adolescents with ASD enjoyed team sports (65% vs. 95%, p < .001) and physical education (84% vs. 98%, p = .02). A greater proportion of adolescents with ASD perceived that physical activities were too hard to learn (16% vs. 0%, p < .01), and fewer believed that physical activity was a way to make friends (68% vs. 97%, p < .001). Fewer adolescents with ASD preferred to do physical activity in their free time (25% vs. 58%, p < .01). Most adolescents with ASD felt that physical activity is fun (84%), but the proportion was lower than in TD adolescents (98%, p = .03). Some perceptions about physical activity were similar between the 2 groups, but differences identified may inform program development.

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Physical Activity Enjoyment, Perceived Barriers, and Beliefs Among Adolescents With and Without Intellectual Disabilities

Heidi I. Stanish, Carol Curtin, Aviva Must, Sarah Phillips, Melissa Maslin, and Linda G. Bandini


Youths with intellectual disabilities (ID) exhibit low levels of physical activity, but the underlying contributors to behavior are unclear. We compared physical activity enjoyment, perceived barriers, beliefs, and self-efficacy among adolescents with ID and typically developing (TD) adolescents.


A questionnaire was administered to 38 adolescents with ID (mean age, 16.8 years) and 60 TD adolescents (mean age, 15.3 years). Of the original 33 questionnaire items, 23 met the test-retest reliability criteria and were included in the group comparisons.


Fewer adolescents with ID reported that they have someone with whom to do physical activity (64% vs 93%: P < .001), and a greater percentage of adolescents with ID perceived that physical activities were too hard to learn (41% vs 0%; P < .001). Fewer adolescents with ID believed that physical activity would be good for their health (92% vs 100%; P = .05). More adolescents with ID reported a dislike of individual physical activities (P = .02). A large percentage of adolescents with ID (84%) responded that they were good at doing physical activities, but the difference between groups was only of borderline significance (95% of TD adolescents, P = .06).


Adolescents shared many of the same perceptions about physical activity, but some important differences between groups were identified.