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Exercise Intervention Research on Persons with Disabilities: What We Know and Where We Need to Go

Rimmer, James H. PhD; Chen, Ming-De MS; McCubbin, Jeffrey A. PhD; Drum, Charles MPA, JD, PhD; Peterson, Jana MPH, PhD

American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation: March 2010 - Volume 89 - Issue 3 - p 249-263
doi: 10.1097/PHM.0b013e3181c9fa9d
Review & Analysis: Exercise

Rimmer JH, Chen M-D, McCubbin JA, Drum C, Peterson J: Exercise intervention research on persons with disabilities: What we know and where we need to go.

The purpose of this article was to provide a comprehensive review of the exercise intervention literature on persons with physical and cognitive disabilities. Electronic searches were conducted to identify research articles published from 1986 to 2006. Of the 80 physical activity/exercise interventions identified in the literature, only 32 were randomized controlled trials. The remaining studies were nonrandomized controlled trials with (n = 16) and without (n = 32) a control group. There was a mixture of exercise training modalities that involved aerobic (26%), strength (25%), and combined aerobic and strength (23%) exercises, but there were no overlapping studies using the same dose of exercise for any of the 11 disability groups. Almost half the studies targeted stroke (20%), multiple sclerosis (15%), and intellectual disability (13%), with significantly fewer studies targeting other disability groups. The current literature on exercise and disability is extremely broad in scope and has limited generalizability to any specific disability group. A new body of evidence is needed with stronger research designs that adhere to precise dosing characteristics for key health outcomes (e.g., pain/fatigue reduction, improved cardiorespiratory health). Multicenter trials will be needed for low-prevalence populations to strengthen research designs and increase generalizability of study findings.

From the Department of Disability and Human Development (JHR), University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois; Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (JHR), Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois; Department of Disability and Human Development (MDC), University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois; Department of Nutrition and Exercise Sciences (JAM), Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon; and Oregon Institute on Disability and Development (CD, JP), Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon.

All correspondence and requests for reprints should be addressed to James H. Rimmer, PhD, National Center on Physical Activity and Disability, Department of Disability and Human Development, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1640 West Roosevelt Road, Chicago, IL 60608-6904.

Financial disclosure statements have been obtained, and no conflicts of interest have been reported by the authors or by any individuals in control of the content of this article. The contents of this manuscript were developed under a grant from the Department of Education, NIDRR grant number H133B040034. These contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.