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Video: IMPACT for Life creates friendships through group fitness

Adults with disabilities in the Corvallis community now have a unique opportunity to exercise – while making friends.

Built on the existing foundation of the College of Public Health and Human Sciences’ IMPACT (Individualized Movement and Physical Activity for Children Today) program, IMPACT for Life’s new group fitness format provides safe and effective physical activity opportunities for young adults with disabilities and their student-helper to exercise together through stretching, dance, weights, aerobics and more.IMPACT-for-LIFE-group-fitness-Synergies-4

“It’s amazing to see how much they’re now part of each other’s lives, not just in class but outside of the exercise room as well,” says Kiley Tyler, IMPACT for Life coordinator and CPHHS doctoral student. “It’s a continuation of physical activity, excitement, motivation and friendship.”

IMPACT for Life provides physical activity opportunities to adults with disability in a one-on-one setting where an undergraduate student volunteer is paired with an IMPACT for Life participant for an adapted exercise instruction similar to personal training. Kiley came up with the idea after spending a majority of her life taking group fitness classes.

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Led by CPHHS graduate students and with the help of undergraduate students, the new IMPACT for Life group fitness format provides two 60-minute exercise sessions a week for eight weeks during the school term.

“My goal as an instructor is to get them active and involved in doing safe exercises with the hope that they’ll have a really positive experience here and walk away wanting to engage in exercise on a regular basis,” says graduate student and IMPACT for Life volunteer Samantha Ross.

“What we know from the literature is working out in a social setting like group fitness provides increased physical activity adherence, it increases motivation and it’s even been found to increase physical fitness levels in children with disabilities,” Kiley says. “We’re super excited to bring this format to IMPACT for Life.”

The group fitness-based exercise sessions begin with a low-key dance group workout followed by aerobic and anaerobic conditioning through means of resistance training with free weights or weight machines. Later, instructors incorporate dance aerobics as well as workout machines before stretching at the end.

“We dance at the end of every session,” says student and IMPACT for Life volunteer Adam Kau. “It’s probably my favorite part because of the smiles it puts on their face, and I think it’s their favorite part of the day, too.”

“It’s great to see that they’re being active and having a great time and really engaging with each other”

IMPACT-for-LIFE-group-fitness-Synergies-1“One of my favorite parts of IMPACT for Life is to see the participant enjoy the student volunteer and the student volunteer gain confidence from that interaction and really find a passion within themselves to continue exercise instruction with people with disabilities,” Kiley says.

“It’s great to see them get these bursts of energy and they’re ready to go and they’ve got a smile,” Samantha says. “We get a lot of feedback from the participants that this is one of the best parts of the week, so it’s great to see that they’re being active and having a great time and really engaging with each other. It’s great to see the relationships that they’re building.”

IMPACT-for-LIFE-group-fitness-Synergies-2In addition to benefitting students and participants, IMPACT for Life coordinators say it builds community as well.

“By hosting these types of programs outside of the Oregon State campus, it helps the community figure out how we can set policies and put procedures in place so that physical activity programs are truly accessible to adults with disabilities,” Kiley says.

Wanting to get involved with the program, SNAP Fitness manager Will Handler offered his facility for group fitness. Program coordinators hope to expand that partnership to other fitness facilities in the area as well.

“Will even made adjustments with his existing schedule toIMPACT-for-LIFE-group-fitness-Synergies-3 incorporate our class,” Kiley says. “He’s been amazing. It’s really been like coming into a family, whether it be here at the university or in the Corvallis community. There’s such a collaboration between the two, and I really feel that Corvallis is a community dedicated to local research and is one that supports new ideas and new innovations. It’s a perfect environment for this program, and it’s been amazing to be part of that.”

Because of the program’s success during its pilot period, Kiley, whose background is in exercise physiology, plans to write a paper in hopes of inspiring other universities to follow in Oregon State’s footsteps.

“We want to get the IMPACT for Life group fitness format to the point where other communities can do what we did and see for themselves how it works,” she says. “We’re already seeing previous graduate students adapt the IMPACT model at other universities and we look forward to the group fitness format becoming a part of this replication process.”