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Promoting Physical Activity and Fitness among Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities

February 18, 2014
Drs. Yan, Corcoran and Finn have been awarded the 2014-2015 Paul E. Murray Fellowship in Science and Engineering for their proposal, “Promoting Physical Activity and Fitness among Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities”.

Dr. Zi Yan, Dr. Michael Corcoran, and Dr. Kevin Finn were recently awarded the 2014-2015 Paul E. Murray Fellowship in Science and Engineering for their proposal, “Promoting Physical Activity and Fitness among Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities”. This is a collaborative project between the Health Sciences Department and CLASS, a nonprofit organization in Lawrence, MA, to design, implement, and evaluate a research-based, student-centered, intervention program aimed at promoting physical activity and wellness among individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID). The primary goal of this project is to explore an effective way to promote physical activity and wellness for individuals with ID. The secondary goal of this study is to provide health sciences students with research experiences working with faculty to design, deliver, and evaluate a project, while simultaneously applying the knowledge and skills they have learned in the classroom to practical, real-world situations.

Approximately 30 students from the Health Behavior and Promotion course will be matched with individuals with ID from the CLASS program. The research team will develop a 6-week curriculum for Merrimack students where the students will be required to design a specific exercise plan for their peers at CLASS using the behavioral change theory. During the 6-week intervention, students will meet with their peers with ID twice a week to promote physical activity and wellness. It is expected that this 6-week peer-based curriculum will significantly increase the physical activity and wellness among individuals with ID.

People with ID face unique personal, social, and environmental barriers that may reduce their access to physical activity opportunities. By developing a model to promote physical activity as a cost-efficient intervention program, Drs. Yan, Corcoran and Finn hope it will further benefit 6.5 million people with ID in the United States. Through this project, students are expected to develop research skills, in addition to skills of applying health promotion knowledge into the real world.

Drs. Yan, Corcoran, and Finn are all equally interested in health promotion. Dr. Yan’s interest for this project partially stemmed from previous research with elders, and international college students. Dr. Finn became interested in this project because of his research experiences promoting physical activity and science learning in children. Dr.  Corcoran’s interest partially stems from his previous experience at Tufts, where he worked to create an effective evidence-based exercise-nutrition program for older adults with mobility disability.

When asked about their hopes for the project, Dr. Finn responded, “With this project, we are promoting physical activity in hopes that the participants will learn some new and fun ways to be active that can lead to a healthier lifestyle. For our students, this is a great experiential learning opportunity for them to apply the concepts that they are learning in class and to interact with a population many of them have limited experience working with. Overall, I am excited for the opportunities that exist for both the CLASS participants and the Merrimack Health Sciences students.”

 

For more information about CLASS, please visit www.classinc.org

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    Dr. Zi Yan, Dr. Michael Corcoran, and Dr. Kevin Finn

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Want to share your story? Send an email to the author, Kari Lake, the Graduate Fellow for the School of Science and Engineering 

lakeka@merrimack.edu

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