Park-based afterschool program to improve cardiovascular health and physical fitness in children with disabilities

Kanathy Haney, Sarah E. Messiah, Kristopher L. Arheart, Eric Hanson, Allison Diego, Jack Kardys, Kevin Kirwin, Renae Nottage, Shawn Ramirez, Gabriel Somarriba, Lucy Binhack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background Children with disabilities are more likely to be overweight or obese and less likely to engage in physical activities versus their peers without disabilities. Objective The effect of a structured afterschool program housed in a large county parks system on several obesity-related health outcomes among children with disabilities was examined. Methods Children/adolescents with a developmental and/or intellectual disability ages 6-22 (N = 52, mean age 13.7 years) who participated in an afterschool (either 2010-2011 or 2011-2012 school year) health and wellness program called Fit-2-Play™ were assessed. Pre-post comparison of outcome variables (mean height, weight, waist/hip/midarm circumference, fitness tests, and a 9-item health and wellness knowledge assessment) via general linear mixed models analysis was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the program for normal and overweight/obese participants. Results Normal weight participants significantly improved pre-post mean number of push-ups (9.69-14.23, p = 0.01) and laps on the PACER test (8.54-11.38, p < 0.01) and the overweight/obese group significantly improved the number of sit ups (7.51-9.84, p < 0.01) and push ups (4.77-9.89, p < 0.001). Pre-post mean health and wellness knowledge composite scores significantly improved for all participants (p < 0.01). Conclusions Parks-based afterschool programs can be effective community resources for instilling physical health in both normal weight and overweight/obese children with disabilities. More studies are needed to ascertain whether community-based afterschool health and wellness programs can be implemented and sustained across this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)335-342
Number of pages8
JournalDisability and Health Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • Children
  • Disability
  • Obesity
  • Physical activity
  • Prevention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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