FitSkills: Changing attitudes towards disability one chest press at a time
FitSkills is an innovative evidence-based program which aims to increase exercise participation among young people with disability.
Young people with disability have poorer health and have higher rates of obesity and diabetes than their typically developing peers. This could be prevented by increased exercise. Increasing participation in exercise among young people with disability is a priority as they typically do not participate in recommended levels. They face significant barriers to exercise participation, in particular, a need for social support and a lack of suitable programs.
FitSkills is a physical activity program which aims to increase your participation in exercise. It is designed for young people with disability. It involves volunteer La Trobe University physiotherapy students acting as student mentors to young people with disability and exercising with them at a community gymnasium. Participants are matched with their student mentor according to where they live. Each pair exercise twice a week for 12 consecutive weeks for 1 hour each session. The exercise program is tailored to each participant with disability’s individual needs and goals and is consistent with international best practice guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine.
The model on which FitSkills is founded is based on several years of research by Prof Nora Shields from La Trobe University. Data as shown that student mentored, community based exercise is beneficial for young people with disability and can help them engage in exercise on an on-going basis. In addition, our data has shown that by working with young people with disability, physiotherapy students develop a better understanding of and more positive attitudes towards disability in addition to professional skills.