It’s not often that a research project has immediate, widespread and tangible results but that’s exactly what Ability Centre’s Xcelerate program delivered in 2015.
The Xcelerate project was part of a research study funded by Non-Government Centre Support (NGCS) and was a joint initiative of Ability Centre, Curtin University and Princess Margaret Hospital for Children. The aim was to find out what impact learning to run would have on the lives of children and young people with cerebral palsy (CP), with a particular focus on enabling them to join in more school, community and recreational activities, especially sports.
The researchers, Dr Noula Gibson and Annie Chappell are both senior physiotherapists who have worked with children and young people with CP for many years and were keen to develop a practical, evidence-based program.
“The only pre-requisite for joining the program was to be able to walk independently for 10 metres, so in our initial intake there were children with a wide range of abilities” explained Ms Chappell. “Over the 12 week programme, everybody showed significant improvement not only physically but confidence levels also increased, which was wonderful.”
The school students who participated were aged between 9 and 18 and attended at least two after-school group running sessions each week and a minimum of two home exercise sessions. Within the group session, there was running and fitness training as well as a lifestyle component to help students maintain their running after the 12 week course was over.
Dr Gibson has analysed the outcomes of the study and reported that after completing the Xcelerate programme all the runners improved in some aspect of their physical abilities and reported greater participation in physical activity in school, “Some of the Xcelerategraduates have even taken on challenges they never thought possible, such completing the 2015 HBF Run for a Reason and City to Surf, which is an amazing feat!”
With such success and high demand to take part from keen young sportspeople, this research project is now being translated into a permanent service provision by Ability Centre and is accessible at three locations across the greater metropolitan area.
Dr Gibson was invited to share the outcomes of the programme at an international CP Symposium in Singapore in September. Dr Gibson and Ms Chappell both hope to develop a running programme of international excellence and sharing the information from this study at the Australasian Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine conference in March 2016.
“We really want to transfer this knowledge nationally and worldwide so that others can benefit from the programme,” concluded Dr Gibson.