Changes in cardiovascular health and physical fitness in ethnic youth with intellectual disabilities participating in a park-based afterschool programme for two years

Sarah Messiah, Emily M. D'Agostino, Hersila H. Patel, Eric Hansen, Matthew Sunil Mathew, Kristopher L. Arheart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Youth with intellectual disabilities are more likely to be an unhealthy weight and less physically active than youth without intellectual disability. Objective: The effects of Fit2Play, a park-based afterschool programme on cardiovascular/fitness health outcomes among youth with intellectual disability, were prospectively assessed. Methods: Youth ages 6 to 22 with intellectual disability who participated in Fit2Play for either one or two school years between 2010 and 2016 (N = 297, mean age 14.1 years, 70% Hispanic, 20% non-Hispanic black, 72% male) were examined via a fitness battery at the beginning/end of the school year(s). Effects of length of Fit2Play participation on body mass index (BMI) %ile, skinfold thicknesses, systolic/diastolic blood pressure (SBP/DBP) %iles, fitness tests, and health and wellness knowledge) were evaluated via two-level repeated measures analysis adjusted for child gender, age, ethnicity and area-level poverty. Results: Adjusted models showed that up to two years of Fit2Play participation was significantly associated with improved BMI %ile, skinfold thicknesses, SPB/DBP %iles and PACER scores (p < 0.05 for all). One and two years of programme participation was associated with a 6% [95% CI: 0.92, 0.96] and 10% [95% CI: 0.87, 0.93] reduction in SBP%ile, respectively (p < 0.001), and a 36% [95% CI: 1.28, 1.45] and 57% [95% CI: 1.44, 1.70] increase in PACER score laps, respectively, compared to baseline. Conclusions: Results here suggest that park-based, structured afterschool programmes with a focus on health and wellness can be a rich resource for this nation by offering both exclusive and immersion programmes for children with intellectual disability to foster cardiovascular health in all youth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019



  • adolescents
  • children
  • community-based
  • disability
  • ethnic minority
  • fitness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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