Q&A: ACSM/NCPAD PARTNERSHIP FOCUSES ON PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND DISABILITIES
Rimmer outlines resources for members; new specialty certification; Webinars
Nearly one in five or six U.S. residents (54.4 million people) has at least some degree of a physical, sensory or cognitive disability, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Yet, everyone can enjoy better health and quality of life through participation in regular physical activity and health promotion activities, if given the opportunity. Unfortunately, for those with disabilities, a host of complex and poorly understood factors limit access and participation. ACSM, in concert with the Exercise is Medicine™ initiative, recently joined with the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability (NCPAD) to help reduce these barriers.
Two years ago, ACSM and James Rimmer, Ph.D., director of NCPAD, led the formation of a national coalition to study and ameliorate the factors that constrain physical activity opportunities for the disabled. This group, the Inclusive Fitness Coalition (IFC), now includes more than 120 member organizations, working to better understand the social, political, economic and environmental factors that contribute to these constraints.
Piggybacking on its successful creation of ICF, ACSM recently partnered with NCPAD on developing a specialty certification for personal trainers so they can better address the exercise needs of adults with disabilities.
Dr. Rimmer shared details on NCPAD and this new joint ACSM-NCPAD certification. He is a professor in the Department of Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and for 28 years has devoted much of his career to developing and directing health promotion programs for people with disabilities. He also is a 19-year member of ACSM.
Q: What is NCPAD and what are its mission and activities?
A: We are a national information and technology center that focuses on physical activity and disability; we operate on the premise that “Exercise is for EVERY body.” On our Web site, we offer a wide array of resources for consumers and professionals – exercise guidelines and related instructional materials and videos, references, and links to programs and organizations that can connect those with disabilities to information and facilities that can help them become as fully active as they are able and choose to be (see www.ncpad.org/about/).
The message we hope to convey through our work is that disability, chronic conditions, and health and wellness, can and should be co-existent conditions. In addition to consumer resources, our site provides key stakeholders (government, physicians, insurers and fitness professionals) with information about how they can help build inclusive health and wellness communities where people with disabilities can regularly participate in physical activities. Among disabled adults, 60 percent are unemployed and can’t work; unfortunately, they are far more likely to have good access to television and nutrient-dense foods on a day-to-day basis than access to suitable environments where they can participate in regular exercise. What better way to make substantial gains in community wellness efforts and chronic disease prevention than to begin with people with disabilities, who are generally at the lowest end of the physical activity continuum.
Q: Are there special resources from NCPAD that ACSM members might use?
A: Yes. There are many resources, in fact, that can assist ACSM members in providing effective exercise programs for people with disabilities. Two that are especially helpful are the “Before and After Fitness Center Makeover” which illustrates how facilities can be reconfigured to accommodate individuals with disabilities. In addition, our series of AIMFREE (Accessibility Instruments Measuring Fitness and Recreation Environments) Manuals, developed through CDC funding, provide professionals with survey tools to make fitness centers and pools accessible to people with mobility limitations.
Q: What is the ACSM-NCPAD Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer (CIFT) and how can one prepare for and complete this certification?
A: There are several unique aspects to the CIFT credential. Candidates for CIFT must already have been certified at the ACSM Certified Personal TrainerSM level, at another level with ACSM, or hold other similar certifications from a different but appropriately accredited organization. CIFT supplements the professional’s basic credential by adding competencies in “inclusive facility design and awareness of social inclusion principles and legal requirements in the physical activity environment for people with disabilities.” In addition, the certification addresses competencies needed to safely and effectively adapt and supervise exercise for those with disabilities. Finally, the CIFT acknowledges that those who qualify for this certification should provide services only to clients cleared by their physician to participate in independent physical activity and who have health states that match to those defined by their primary exercise certification. The exam blueprint for the CIFT includes eight competency areas, ranging from exercise prescription and programming to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Details on the written examination are available at www.vue.com/acsm/cift/.
No workshops are currently offered to prepare individuals for the CIFT online examination, but ACSM-NCPAD does offer a series of six Webinar sessions that cover all important knowledge, skills, and abilities related to the certification. The second offering of this Webinar series begins Nov. 2 and runs through Dec. 14. Visit the ACSM Web site to register.
The CIFT certification is expected to become an important stimulus nationally for promoting inclusion of adults with disabilities into various exercise environments, including health clubs, public facilities, and other indoor and outdoor physical activity venues. ACSM is proud to join with NCPAD in training professionals to meet the needs of this important and underserved segment of our population.