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Feasibility of a school-based physical activity intervention for adolescents with disability

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posted on 08.07.2021, 03:08 by AA Leahy, SG Kennedy, JJ Smith, N Eather, J Boyer, M Thomas, Nora ShieldsNora Shields, B Dascombe, DR Lubans
Background: Adolescents with disability are less active and have lower levels of physical fitness than their typically developing peers. Schools are ideal settings to address this; however, few school-based interventions have been designed and evaluated among this group. Therefore, the aim of this pilot study was to determine the feasibility of a time-efficient school-based physical activity intervention for adolescents with disability. Methods: A non-randomized pilot trial was conducted with adolescents in the special education unit at one secondary school in New South Wales, Australia. Sixteen grade 11 and 12 students (aged 17.3 ± 0.7 years) participated in the 2-month physical activity intervention. Two classroom teachers were trained to facilitate the delivery of a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) program, known as Burn 2 Learn adapted (B2La). Teachers were asked to deliver 2–3 weekly HIIT sessions for a period of 2 months. Four domains of feasibility (acceptability, implementation, adaptability, and practicality) were assessed using quantitative measures at the student and teacher levels (e.g., observations, process evaluation questionnaires, and heart rate [HR] monitoring). Data were also collected from three learning and support teachers who assisted classroom teachers with intervention delivery. Preliminary efficacy of the intervention on measures of adolescents’ functional capacity (6-min walk/run test) and muscular fitness (sit-to-stand test and modified push-up test) were analyzed using paired sample t-tests. Results: Moderate-to-high levels of program satisfaction were reported by both students (80% rated “Good” or “Excellent”) and teachers (100% rated “Good” or “Excellent”). Teachers reported delivering 2.5 ± 0.7 sessions per week during the study. Based on researcher session observations, the program was delivered effectively by teachers (14/20). However, HR data indicated session intensity was lower than intended. The program was considered “adaptable” by teachers, with several observed modifications to HIIT sessions to cater for the needs of adolescents with disability. No adverse events were reported. We observed improvements in preliminary efficacy measures. Conclusions: Our findings suggest it is feasible to train teachers to deliver a school-based HIIT program for adolescents with disability. Evaluation of B2La within a larger-scale effectiveness trial is warranted. Trial registration: ACTRN12621000219886.


We would like to thank the participating school, students, and teachers for their support and cooperation throughout the study. DRL is supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council Future Fellowship (APP1154507).


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Pilot and Feasibility Studies





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BioMed Central



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