Home Health & Fitness Exercise

Resources for Inclusive Physical Activity

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Children play basketball in wheelchairs at Misawa Air Base, Japan, in June 2016. The children were able to experience the difficulties of being in a wheelchair firsthand, while being coached by Shinji Negi, captain of the Japan Men's National Wheelchair Basketball Team at the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games. Photo: Public domain, U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brittany A. Chase

By Robert Herron, MA, CSCS*D, ACSM-CEP |

In 2018, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the 2nd edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, a follow up from the first-such report from 2008 (link to executive summary HERE).

Of note, the report highlighted the need to create more, inclusive opportunities for people with disabilities through which people can be physically active.  According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 1-in-4 American adults (≈ 61 million) have some type of disability; and the numbers are higher in the Southeast region.  Furthermore, people with disabilities are more likely to be less active, have access to fewer inclusive health-related programs, and more likely to develop many of the common comorbidities associated with the deleterious effects of less-desirable, lifestyle habits.  These abhorrent trends are also pronounced in the population of children and youth with disabilities, with physical activity levels 4.5 times lower in those with disabilities. 

Alex X. Martínez, an Inclusion Information Specialist for the National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability (NCHPAD), recently outlined many of the resources available to help make physical activity opportunities more inclusive for everyone.  NCHPAD is a federally-funded, health-promotion center aimed at improving opportunities for people with disabilities and health chronic conditions.  Martínez explained that NCHPAD often partners with groups, organizations, and government bodies to provide expertise on their efforts to create more inclusive environments.  For example, over the last year NCHPAD worked with Girls on the Run – a national, empowerment through physical activity program for female youth – to update their inclusive programming to better serve the communities in which they serve. 

Additionally, NCHPAD has made available a number of resources that can assist organizations; from creating guidelines for inclusive road races, to designing accessible fitness programs, and even how to build sustainable and accessible community gardens

Recently, coinciding with National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15th – October 15th), a storybook authored by Mr. Martinez entitled, Where is mi amigo, Pedro? (free download in Spanish or English) wishes to continue to help kids learn more about inclusion and physical activity.  This project was inspired by survey data and discussions Alex had with curious teachers and students. 

I encourage those interested in advocating for – or supporting – more inclusive environments that provide access for all people, to seek out resources and educational opportunities that are available to you.  There are a number of resources and professionals with expertise that can assist coaches, teachers, trainers, communities, and organizations with including everyone.  

If you are interested in finding more resources from NCHPAD please email at email@nchpad.org or call Toll-Free 1-800-900-8086.

Robert L. Herron is a faculty member at the United States Sports Academy.  Robert is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist® with distinction from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA-CSCS*D®) and a Clinical Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM-CEP®). rherron@ussa.edu

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