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Vol. 36 No. 2, April 1999


Abstract - Research on Physical Activity and Health among People with Disabilities: A Consensus Statement

Rory A. Cooper, PhD; Louis A. Quatrano, PhD; Peter W. Axelson, MS; ME; William Harlan, MD; Margaret Stineman, MD; Barry Franklin, PhD; J. Stuart Krause, PhD; John Bach, MD; Henry Chambers, MD; Edmund Y.S. Chao, PhD; Michael Alexander, MD; Patricia Painter, PhD

Human Engineering Research Laboratories, VA Pittsburgh Health Care System, Pittsburgh, PA and University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15206

Abstract--Research is required to advance the understanding of issues related to the effect of physical activity on health and disease prevention among people with disabilities. This report is the result of a consensus process using selected experts in health and exercise. The purpose of the consensus conference was to identify research priorities for physical activity and health among people with disabilities. Priorities were established by 30 participants, who were selected by the principal investigators to achieve balance in the areas of engineering, epidemiology, medicine, nutrition, exercise physiology, and psychology. Experts summarized relevant data from their research and from comprehensive review of the scientific literature on the topic areas chosen for the conference. Public commentary was provided by participants in the 1996 Paralympic Congress. Panel members discussed openly all material presented to them in executive session. Commentary from open discussion periods were recorded and transcribed. Selected panelists prepared first drafts of the consensus statements for each research priority question. All of these drafts were distributed to the panelists and pertinent experts. The documents were edited by the drafting committee to obtain consensus. This research priority setting process revealed that greater emphasis must be placed on determining the risks and benefits of exercise among people with disabilities. Exercise must be studied from the perspective of disease prevention while mitigating risk for injury. Five areas were identified as focal points for future work: epidemiological studies; effects of nutrition on health and ability to exercise; cardiovascular and pulmonary health; children with disabilities; and accessibility and safety of exercise programs. As people with disabilities live longer, the need for addressing long-term health issues and risk for secondary disability must receive greater attention. As a consequence of the consensus process, specific recommendations for future research regarding the impact of exercise on the health and quality of life of persons with disabilities were defined.

Key words: disability, exercise, health, paralympics, research priorities.

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