Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Other Degree Name/Area of Focus

Health Promotion

Department or School/College

Department of Health and Human Performance

Committee Chair

Annie Sondag

Commitee Members

James Laskin, Laura Dybdal


acelerometer, disability, physical activity, youth


University of Montana


Bond, Chelsea, M.S. July 2009 Health and Human Performance, Health Promotion Title: A case study investigation of the physical activity levels of disabled students at a small Missoula, Montana middle school. Chairperson: Dr. Annie Sondag Introduction: One of the major goals for the nation, described in the Surgeon General’s Report Healthy People 2010, is to promote the health of people with disabilities, prevent secondary conditions, and eliminate disparities between people with and without disabilities in the U.S. population (World Health Organization, 1997). Children with disabilities have lower physical activity participation rates, lower levels of fitness, and more frequent participation restrictions in comparison to non-disabled students (Murphy, N., Carbone, P., 2008). Unfortunately, there have been limited studies that assess the activity levels of disabled children and their long-term health conditions as a result of their inactive lifestyles (Fernhall, B., Pitetti, K., Rimmer, J., McCubbin, J., Rintala, P., Millar, A., Kettredge, J., & Burkett, L., 1996). Purpose: The purpose of this study is to provide a more accurate picture of physical activity levels of disabled, middle school children, and to describe the challenges and barriers related to increased physical activity for this population. Methods: This study utilized a qualitative case study research design. Both primary and secondary (existing) sources of data were used to explore the issues surrounding physical activity for children with disabilities. Primary data included focus groups with parents and children, key informant interviews with teachers and the school principle, field observation of children, and review of existing research and records. Results: A comparison of secondary data from two University of Montana studies revealed that disabled students had a higher rate of physical activity during the weekdays (1077.7) than their non-disabled peers (883.9); however, non-disabled students were more physically active during the weekends (884.2) than their disabled peers (821.3). Analysis of data from primary sources revealed conflicting perceptions regarding physical activity levels. Parents of disabled children believed their children were less active than their nondisabled peers, while school personnel believed that disabled and nondisabled children’s activity levels were similar. Major barriers to increasing activity included: lack of playground equipment, child’s lack of interest in physically activity, parents are not physically active with their child, lack of communication between the school staff and parents, and the parent’s and school personnel’s contrasting perception of children’s level of physical activity. Conclusions: The results of this study reveal that activity levels for disabled children and their non-disabled counterparts were similar. While disabled students were slightly more active during the school week, levels of activity in both groups, disabled and not-disabled, were relatively low. Thus, it appears that there is a need for increasing activity levels in both groups.



© Copyright 2009 Chelsea Marie Bond