The effect of a 9-week structured-exercise program on health-related fitness, self-efficacy, and quality of life of adults with physical disabilities
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Structured-exercise (STE) has been recommended to improve physical and psychological health of individuals with physical disabilities (U.S. Department of Health and Human Service, 2008). The purpose of the present mixed-methods research was to quantitatively examine the effect of a 9-week STE program on the health-related fitness, self-efficacy, and quality of life (QOL) of adults with acquired physical disabilities; to explore qualitatively the perceived benefits of a structure-exercise program, and identify a factors that might be related to their physical and psychological health. Fifteen adults with physical disabilities (e.g., amputee, spinal cord injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and traumatic brain injury-related disability; AWPD) were purposely recruited for this study. The 9 weeks individualized STE program (90-min session, three times per week) focused on improving physical and psychological health by engaging participants in physical and mental training. The components of health-related fitness (i.e., muscular strength and body composition), self-efficacy, and QOL were measured at baseline and at the conclusion of the 9-week program. The focus group interview was conducted only at the post-program. Quantitative data were analyzed by paired t-test (α = .05). Qualitative data were analyzed by thematic coding and content analysis (Creswell, 2014). The result of the study indicated that participation in the STE program significantly improved health-related fitness (i.e., grip strength and body composition), self-efficacy, and domains of QOL at posttest compared to pretest. Significant improvement (p < .05) with average moderate effect size (Cohen’s d = 0.5 - 0.8) was found across the variables. The qualitative data were collected and analyzed to follow up on the results of a change in self-efficacy and different variables within QOL. A total of six subthemes emerged, which were merged into two main themes: (a) perceived benefit of a 9-week STE program and (b) key factors of an exercise program for AWPD. Notwithstanding the limitations of this study, the study concluded that participating in a 9-week STE program may improve health-related fitness and positively influence on self-efficacy and domains of QOL of AWPD.