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This assignment considers physical activity in four different special population groups

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This assignment considers physical activity in four different special population groups. Each population group is identified as being 'special' because they have specific physiological and psychological needs that require physical activity to be modified and adapted to meet their special needs.

The four different populations dealt within this assignment are Children, Over 50's, Pregnant Women and Disabled Persons. In this assignment, I will attempt to identify the techniques adapted specifically for each group and explain why it is beneficial for them. I will then proceed to compare and contrast the different techniques used between the four groups and explain why some techniques may be more suited for a particular group, and why some techniques may be inappropriate.


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The first visit made was to a gymnasium course for children in between the ages of 2-4. (Ref. Appendix 1)

Children are special because they grow at different rates and at different ages, ".. there are also changes in body proportions that can put limitations on their ability to perform" (Lee, 1993 p. 51) Children need one to one care and special attention. Their bodies are still growing and developing so they have a limit to their capacity to perform certain activities. Their attention p is also short compared to an adult's so activities must be fun and capturing.

The session I observed was a gymnastic lesson for children ages 2-4 that lasted for an hour. There were 6 students and two instructors. The fact that there was 1 instructor to 3 students shows how vulnerable children are and therefore must have special attention. As with every proper exercise session, they started with a good fifteen minutes of warm up. This ensured that all muscles were stretched and warmed up, ready for activity. The warm up exercises were very fun and exciting, which guaranteed the participation and inclusion of all children.

The warm up exercises were very imaginative and creative and to name a few examples: walking on tiptoes with arms outstretched, frog leaping, hopping, star jumps and side skips. The stretches started from the top of the head moving down the body, such as neck stretches, shoulder rotation, roll and shake, hip swing and rotation, bottom wiggle and standing on tip toes to stretch the calves. After the 15 minute warm up, children were given a couple of minutes to have a drink or to visit the lavatories if needed.

The main activity was set up as an assault course, where children moved from 1 activity to another. The equipment used was all very safe and the instructor arrived at least 15 minutes early to go through them and make sure all the equipments were working fine and that none were faulty. The beams, balancing benches and springboards were not the normal standard size but were adapted specifically for children. Mattings and paddings of sufficient size and density were placed where a landing would occur, or based on the design of an exercise, for example, for protection during a hand stand.

The children started off by jumping off the springboard on to a soft horse bench. They then proceeded to do forward rolls on a soft mat, then a hand stand. They balanced themselves on a balance beam, before jumping onto trampoline, then going into the climbing frame. In between these exercises, the instructors gave children a few minutes break to get a drink or to visit the lavatory. The exercises used in the main activity focused on working different types of fitness components such as, strength, agility, balance, cardiovascular endurance and flexibility.

The techniques used in this activity was appropriate because children have a lower capacity to do intense activity lasting 10-90s compared to adults so they are well suited to intermittent activities. (Howley et al, 2003)

The variety of activities not only kept their attention, but it protected them from overemphasising on a specific sport and training intensely which could lead to emotional and physical problems. The benefits of exercise on children are that it enhances their fitness and health, and reduces risk for illness. The children enjoyed themselves greatly, and the instructors addressed them in very simple and friendly language.

OVER 50's

The next class I observed was a session for Over 50's. (Ref. Appendix 2) A population group over 50 is classified as special because as they age, their physical, emotional and mental function is no longer the same. Their joints have less mobility which increases risk injury therefore they will require programming that addresses these risks. Health related problems increase with both age and inactivity so older people need to be active and exercise to try and avoid illness. There is evidence that "..onset, progression and severity of many diseases in older people can be prevented, minimized or delayed with the provision of effective health promotion programmes, therapeutic exercises or physical activities" (Morris et al, 2004 p.1)

The session was an aerobics course for 15 members lasting 45 minutes. The warm up section contained a range of movements that lasted a good 15 minutes. Warm up is important because it increases internal body temperature and reduces risk of injury. Movements included stretching and exercises such as heel raises, knee lifts, shoulder lifts and circles working through a pain free range of motion. Stretching exercises that emphasize range of motion and flexibility have been shown to increase ankle, knee joint and lower back flexibility in older adults. (Cotton 1998)

The basic step-touch-step was used as a returning starting position before beginning a new movement. The warm up was accompanied by some soft, sustained music that set the mood. Music helps relax the mind and makes participants become more aware of their movements, breathing and posture (Best-Martini, 2003) Participants were given a break after warm up to freshen up.

The aerobic activity lasted 10 minutes, was low impact and smooth completed movements were used rather than jerky, abrupt ones. There were sweeping hand movements involved, reaching and squatting. The aerobic part was similar to the warm up but with variations and at a slightly faster pace. The music as well was more lively which helped boost the participants motivation. The instructor used gradual transitions and cued clearly and well in advance.

The weight training was next, which again lasted 10 minutes. They did very simple exercises using 1 kilo dumbbells, step, and cones. The group were assigned different stations: some participants did bicep curls with knee lifts, others did squats on the step, others marched on the sport lifting the dumbbells, and the rest did power walking around the cones with their arms swinging. They each had 30 seconds to do each exercise before moving on to the next. After four minutes, they rested for a bit before continuing again. There was no music used during resistance training so that the participants could concentrate.

Once the weight training was over, they used the basic aerobics step to move into cool down. Again, soft, relaxing music was used, and the same, smooth, free range of movements used in the warm up was used to cool down. The participants seem to be having fun. It was a great way of socialising and they were chatting amongst each other throughout the whole session.

For the health and safety part of the session, there was enough room and space for everyone to avoid anyone getting hurt. There were also mats placed by the steps to prevent participants from slipping while doing squats. The techniques used were appropriate because older adult exercisers "will be looking be looking for safe, low impact exercise programs that enhance overall fitness, including cardiovascular endurance, strength, flexibility, coordination, and balance (Van, 1995, P.5)

The sweeping hand movements and free range of motion reduces the risk of joint stress and injury to senior participants. It was appropriate and also maybe necessary for the participants to take regular breaks because their maximum heart rate decreases, and so does stroke volume meaning they have a higher rate of oxygen deficit than younger adults.

The instructor provided a lot of verbal feedback always checking if they were alright and motivating them. The physiological benefits of exercise on older adults are improvement in cardiovascular functioning and slowing down the age-related declines in bodily function. The psychological benefits are improved mental health, reduced stress and anxiety and feeling more relaxed and refreshed. (Best-Martini, 2003)


For the disabled population, I visited the motorcise gym catering especially for their needs (Ref. Appendix 3) . Motorcise is a centre that has specifically been opened to help those people who find gyms or health clubs intimidating. The club is open to Women only over 40, and provides brilliant facilities for the older women, overweight and disabled.

There is a relaxed friendly atmosphere, with dedicated staff on hand to assist the members, whatever there needs.

The atmosphere, as well as the centre's specific equipment means that members can really benefit. Socially it gives them a chance to meet new people, and provides them with a social platform depending on the number of times they visit the centre. Physically though the centre is excellent for all the cliental groups.

The machines motorcise use, are as the name shows, Motorised. It is a completely new system that makes exercise easy and fun to do. Women who were in the session had multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, chronic back pain, diabetes and they found the machines really helpful and enjoyed working out.

On average members use the centre twice a week and this can help improve their health and wellbeing, increase energy levels, tone the body as well as boosting their confidence. The sessions only take 30minutes so members are able to fit the work out around their daily lives.

Sport has a great deal therapeutic value and plays a great part in physical, psychological and social rehabilitation / factors for a disabled person. The level of a person's disability will determine the amount of exercise and participation.

It's important that the disabled have the facilities to participate to the best of their ability and to be able to enjoy sport like everybody else.

People with disabilities find it hard to participate in sport for a number of reasons. They feel unable to fit into sporting environment, no self confidence to take part and the feel of failure. They have a mentality that because they are disabled any kind of physical activity would be beyond their capability.

Put this together with the lack of information, facilities, and support for disabled sport it is very easy for a person with a slight disability to be put off participating in sport. (Health Education Authority, 1997)

Motorcise has 10 machines each working a different group muscle. The 'Chester' is the first machine that every woman goes on which is basically like a warm up in an activity session. It gets the circulation moving and warms up the muscle joints. Each machine has two different settings, the 'Slow Passive Pace' and the 'Fast Pace.' These machines are adapted specifically for people with certain limitations to do physical activity.

At slow pace, the machine does the work for them, it is only getting the muscle joints warmed up. When set on to the fast pace, the individual is then working with it by pushing the bars, or pulling them down, or lifting their legs, or pushing down on it. If a woman has immobility in her knees, then she would adapt to it by planting her feet on the floor and using just her arms, or if she has frozen shoulders, she would cross her arms over her chest and work only her lower body. Each machine has very good back support padding, and there are special cushions available for a woman with very bad back problems. To name a few, there is the 'Noddy Crunch' which works the upper abs and lower back. The 'Latty Leg Press' works on the shoulders, leg press and posture. As you push up with the shoulders, you push up with your knees then push down again, lengthening the spine and working the posture.

The last machine for is specifically for cool down called the 'Ricky Relaxerciser.' It has low frequency sound waves that give a soft vibration giving the women a feeling of relaxation.

This recreation centre gives great facilities and opportunities for disabled women. It is in a safe, fun and supportive environment. It gives them a chance to socialise, boost their self esteem, have more confidence and not only that, improves their health and aids them with the mobility in their joints and flexibility.

Physical activity is effective in playing a role in behaviour - "..interventions that promote moderate and non-endurance physical activities (flexibility exercises) are associated with long-term changes in behaviour" (Health Development Agency)


Pregnant women are special because there is an increase in body mass will reduce her exercise capacity, swimming provides and element of support. The increased metabolic rate and increased body weight, means oxygen demand during pregnancy increases. (Bird, S.R, 1998)

The session I observed was an aqua aerobics class for pregnant women that lasted 45 minutes (Ref. Appendix 4). "Safety: Water is supportive through buoyancy, resistive in nature and equal in hydrostatic pressure on the submerged body part. Weakness, joint or limb swelling, loss of motion or flexibility and overall loss of endurance are safely addressed in the aquatic environment" (White, 1995 pp 3-5). It was very low intensity with slow and controlled movements. The warm up involved walking around the pool for a few minutes, chatting amongst themselves. Next, they were lightly jogging around the pool, other women who were too far into pregnancy continued walking. Along with lower body movements, they performed various arm motions such as the breast stroke, back stroke, punches, pushes and sweeps.

The cardiovascular workout was done at a low intensity and for a moderate duration. The aim was to get breathlessness. (Lawrence 1998) Women used woggles as part of their main activity to support themselves. They did a cycling movement by having a woggle under both arms while legs were cycling. It was a good work out for the whole body, and not only that, they also worked out their neck and head. Explosive and jerky movements were avoided because "....the increase in body mass will become a limitation..(Bird, 1998, p.288) which could overstretch ligaments and tendons doing more damage than healing.

Throughout the main workout, there were regular breaks taken, which meant marching on the spot and performing flowing, rhythmical mobility exercises, like sweeping the water etc.. The cool down was just as slow and relaxed as the warm up, and the women were given a few minutes at the end of the class to just float on their backs and enjoy the feeling of weightlessness.

It is beneficial for pregnant women to exercise in water because they are better accommodated in water because of the supportive and gravity-reduced environment. The buoyancy opposes the force of gravity allowing the body to move more freely and easily than on land. (White, 1995) It reduces the weight and stress placed on joints and ligaments, spine and hip. Resistance works out the muscles and tones them without being too intense. There is equal pressure form the water on the body that increases with depth. This is helpful for swelling around the joints or circulatory problems because the static fluid around the joints is forced upward toward the heart by hydrostatic pressure. (Lawrence, 1998) The overall balance of the woman is also enhanced because she is constantly moving forwards, backwards and sideward in a dynamic environment.


Each population group had different techniques but they also had some similarities. Each group started with a warm up and cool down that lasted at least 15 minutes. This is important for getting the circulation moving, and working the muscles and joints to prevent injury.

The children's session was similar to the over 50's and pregnant women in the sense that they took regular breaks. The children needed breaks because doing physical activity for a short amount of time made them run out of breath. "Children respond to exercise with shallower respirations and higher respiratory frequencies than adolescents and adults. During maximal exercise children may reach over 75 breaths/min compared with a normal adult response of about 45 breaths/min." (Lee, 1993, p.69)

The older adults needed regular breaks because there is a "..decrease in both stroke volume (the volume of blood pumped from the heart during one heartbeat) and maximum heart rate (the highest heart rate a person can attain.).." (Van, 1995 P.11) The pregnant women had to take regular breaks because "high intensity activities may restrict blood flow to the foetus..." (Lawrence, 1998 P. 159)

The language the instructors used with the children's session differed from the rest because they used simple and fun language to address them.

Each group was similar in the sense that they each had certain limitations to perform physical activity. For children, it was the fact that they were still growing and developing so overtraining was not appropriate. For older adults, it was the fact that some of them might have loss some sense of coordination, flexibility or mobility. For pregnant women, it was the increase in mass that might have prevented her from doing the usual things. For the disabled population, it was their disability that was their limitation. However, despites all these limitations, there were no barriers to stop them from participating in physical activity. They overcame all their limitations and barriers, and each one of them was able to participate in physical activity like everyone else.

After going on these fieldtrips, I learnt that no matter what kind of barrier or limitation someone has, this cannot stop them from participating in physical activity as illustrated by these four special population groups. It is great that most leisure/recreation centres have facilities and opportunities that cater specifically for these groups needs.

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