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National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability
United States

About Me:

The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) is a public health practice and resource center on health promotion for persons with disabilities. They provide disability specific information regarding physical activity, nutrition, and lifestyle weight management along with web-based health promotion programs inclusive to users of all abilities. NCHPAD's website features a database of programs, organizations, parks, and personal trainers all equipped to provide physical activity and health services to persons with disabilities. For more information on resources that can enable people with disabilities to become as physically active as they choose to be, please contact (800) 900-8086 or visit

About Our Bloggers

Allison Hoit, NCHPAD BloggerAllison Hoit, MS, ACSM-HFS, is an Information Specialist for the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD). She holds a Master's degree in Community Health Education from the University of West Florida and a Bachelor's degree in Exercise Science from Auburn University. Her work and passion is to promote inclusive healthy communities for all of the five sectors to include community, institutions/organizations, healthcare, schools, and worksites. Leading by example, Allison is an advocate for NCHPAD's mission by participating in regular physical activity such as running, strength training, and yoga along with consuming a healthy diet.

Bob Lujano, NCHPAD BloggerBob Lujano, MS, is an Information Specialist for the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD). He holds a Master's degree in Recreation and Sport Management from the University of Tennessee and a Bachelor's degree in History and Pre-Law from the University of Texas. Bob has been a wheelchair rugby athlete for 17 years including a 7 year run on the US Rugby National Team and the US Paralympic program. He holds a silver medal from the 2002 World Championship team and a bronze medal from the 2004 Paralympic team. Outside of the office Bob enjoys public speaking, church activities, reading, going to the movies and the rare occasions of going dancing.

Recent Posts by NCHPAD

A Culture of Inclusion in Workplace Wellness

by NCHPAD July 31, 2013

It’s time for that weekly staff meeting which can range from one to many hours of conversation, reporting, strategizing - and most importantly - a lot of sitting.  Deciding to become a wellness champion, you suggest a “Moving Meeting” to get some physical activity, which may also increase natural vitamin D and spark creativity with coworkers.  In addition to providing more movement throughout the workday, you have also helped to lower your coworkers’ risk of cardiovascular disease and other causes of mortality by reducing their sedentary time.

Moving Meetings, among many other wellness strategies, can become a part of your worksite’s culture.  Employee wellness programs are gaining speed in corporate America, providing benefits to employers (e.g. reduced health insurance costs), and to employees, (e.g. increasing access to necessary health screenings).  The latest data shows an employer’s Return on Investment (ROI) to be $6 for every $1 spent on workplace wellness.  In a recent research report sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and conducted by RAND Health, it was noted that almost half of employers in the U.S. are offering wellness program initiatives.  The report also noted that meaningful improvements were seen in exercise frequency, smoking, and weight control for wellness program participants compared to nonparticipants. 

Within the Affordable Care Act (ACA), employee wellness programs are supported as a means of reducing chronic illness by improving health and controlling health care costs while protecting consumers from unfair practices.  Final rules regarding employee wellness programs, which support and further outline guidelines for two types of wellness programs, were released in May 2013 and become effective in January 2014.  These include participatory wellness programs that are available to all employees without requirement to meet a health-related standard and health-contingent wellness programs where a reward is offered to individuals who meet a health-related standard.  The final rules go further for health-contingent wellness programs outlining five additional requirements to limit health status discrimination.  Click to read the entire final rules regarding employee-based wellness programs.

In regards to providing wellness for all employees the final rules consist of terminology such as “reasonably designed”, “uniform availability”, and “reasonable alternative standards.”  These phrases protect consumers from being discriminated against in relation to health status, and allow employees with medical conditions, which may or may not include employees with disabilities, to equally receive wellness-related rewards.  It is also important to note that the final rules do not override other laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires reasonable accommodations for employees with known disabilities to allow them to participate.  Employees with disabilities are more likely than their coworkers to have secondary health conditions; therefore adding a level of inclusion to worksite wellness programs is both the smart and right choice.    

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Include employees with disabilities in wellness program planning either on the wellness committee or working closely with the wellness coordinator to ensure program activities are accessible and meet the needs of all employees.
  • Create inclusive marketing materials by using images of people with and without disabilities, person-first language, and inclusive terminology such as “Moving Meeting” and “Run.Walk.Roll 5k”.
  • Ensure accessibility of marketing materials by providing a variety of formats such as audio, picture-based, large print and accessible electronic formats.
  • Provide relevant incentives for employees with a variety of abilities.   
  • Create accommodations when appropriate.  For example, a walking program encouraging 10,000 steps a day may not be appropriate for all employees.  Instead allow employees to track steps or movement throughout the day and encourage an increase in activity.
  • Provide a map of accessible routes to increase physical activity throughout your worksite’s campus instead of only promoting the stairs.
  • Consider a smoke-free workplace policy which will impact all employees, but especially employees with disabilities, since they are more likely to smoke cigarettes (25.4% vs. 17.3%). 
  • Include healthy options in vending machines and ensure they are accessible to employees who may use a wheelchair.

The culture of a worksite can make or break participation in employee wellness programs.  To reap the benefits both for employers and employees, consider creating a culture of inclusion, welcoming all employees to improve their health. 

Additional Resources:

Are You Too Old to Start an Exercise Program?

by NCHPAD April 24, 2013

Cross-promoted from the NCHPAD News: Volume 12, Issue 1

Written by: Carol Kutik, Director of Fitness & Health Promotion at the Lakeshore Foundation

Never! Even if you have had an inactive lifestyle, research suggests that you are never too old to benefit from exercise. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) report that even moderate physical activity can improve the health of older adults who are frail, or who have diseases that accompany age. A substantial number of research studies confirming the many benefits of regular physical activity for older adults helped the U.S. government to report in its 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans that, compared to less active people, more active people have lower rates of all-cause mortality, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, colon cancer, breast cancer, and depression. The Guidelines add that “regular physical activity is essential for healthy aging.” Note the word essential, as opposed to the word suggested.

Despite the known benefits of physical activity, the NIH reports that rates are low among older people. Only about 30 percent of adults between age 45 and 64, 25 percent between age 65 and 74 years, and 11 percent age 85 and older engage in regular physical activity. Physical activity rates for older adults with physical disabilities are even lower. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding adults age 50 and over, approximately 70 percent of those with disabilities do not participate in recommended amounts of physical activity, as compared to 60 percent of those without disabilities.

As older individuals become less active, they begin to lose their ability to perform standard daily living activities and become discouraged and reluctant to exercise, fearful that it will be too strenuous and cause them harm. All too often, decreased levels of both physical function and independence are accepted as natural consequences of aging, leading older adults to believe that exercise is not “for them” and perpetuating the downward spiral. Research from the NIH shows that the opposite is true – that exercise is safe for people of all age groups, and that older adults hurt their health far more by not exercising than exercising.

The following types of exercise are recommended for seniors who want to stay healthy and independent:

  • Strength exercises build muscles and increase metabolism (which helps with weight control). Strength exercises can be performed by using machines, free weights, working with resistance bands, using your own body weight (push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, etc.), heavy gardening, yoga and other methods.
  • Endurance exercises improve the ability of your heart and lungs to work efficiently. Any activity that increases heart rate and breathing will help build endurance. Try walking, pushing, swimming, cycling or raking leaves!
  • Stretching exercises keep joints and muscles limber, which can give you more freedom of movement. Special attention is important for joints that are particularly tight.
  • Balance exercises can help avoid falling, as well as build strength and postural awareness.

The following steps will help guide you in your new exercise routine:

  • First, make a commitment to yourself. Keep in mind that research tells us it takes most people 21 days to develop a new habit. Get out your calendar and plan those first 21 days – the rest will follow!
  • Start out slowly, especially if you have been inactive for a long time, and set realistic short-term goals. Seek the advice of a fitness professional who is experienced in working with older adults. If you are computer savvy, use the internet to find exercises that you enjoy. Explore NCHPAD’s multitude of exercise programs. Check out EASY (, a website developed to help older adults identify the physical activity programs most suited to their personal needs, preferences, and health conditions.
  • Use your own body awareness as your guide. Pay attention to how you feel before, during, and after exercise, and adjust your pace as needed. Keep in mind that it will take you a while to know when it’s just right, but trust me, when you experience that awesome feeling you will be hooked!
  • Reward yourself along the way as you reach small goals to keep the habit.

Tags: , , ,

Active Advice | Older adults

An Active Push Towards Equal Access in Extracurricular Athletics

by NCHPAD March 11, 2013

On January 24, 2013, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a Dear Colleague Letter clarifying school's obligations under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to provide extracurricular athletic opportunities for students with disabilites. The guidance creates a clear roadmap for how schools can integrate students with disabilities into mainstream athletic programs and create adapted programs for students with disabilities.

"OCR's guidance is a landmark moment for individuals with disabilities, as it sends a loud message to educational institutions that students with disabilities must be provided opportunities for physical activity and sports equal to those afforded to students without disabilities," said Terri Lakowski, policy chair of the Inclusive Fitness Coalition (IFC) and nationally recognized sports policy advocate.

You may have seen this announcement in the media or through your organization, but what does it all mean and how will this impact extracurricular athletics?

The road towards victory for student athletes with disabilities was relentless. The letter released by the OCR came after ten years of advocacy to level the playing field in school-based athletic programs. The release of the Dear Colleague letter is merely further guidance on what should already be happening for students with disabilities, based on section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The purpose is to clarify school's responsibilities under the law; it does not provide any additional legislation. Similar to Title IX, which paved the way for women to have equal opportunities in sports, the updated guidance will hopefully provide a similar effect for student athletes with disabilities.

Above: Wheelchair athelete Tatyana McFadden, front, races in her first high school track meet alongside able-bodied runners, April 2006 in Rockville, MD. Photo courtesy of (Chris Gardner/AP)

Why are these guidelines important? The benefits of providing ALL students with opportunities for exercise and sports participation goes beyond justice and individual opportunity. There is a major epidemic of obesity among our youth and even more so among youth with disabilities.

"Inclusion in athletics is how children learn from each other, build social skills and optimize their growth and development. The OCR guidance is a clear indication that athletics is an extremely important part of our educational system and that youth and young adults with disabilities must be afforded the same opportunities as their non-disabled peers," said James Rimmer, Ph.D., who co-chairs the IFC and directs the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability. "This should be part of a national strategy to lower obesity rates, which are disproportionately higher among youth with disabilities compared to their non-disabled peers." By providing equal access in extracurricular activities for students with disabilities, maybe we can begin to break down the common barriers to physical activity, and create a new culture of inclusion in our schools and communities.

To ensure equal opportunity does not mean a fundamental alteration to the program, but simply providing a reasonable modification to allow the student athletes with a disability to participate alongside their peers. The Dear Colleague Letter document outlines what constitutes a reasonable modification. One example is to provide a visual cue at the start of high school track races, simultaneously wtih the starter pistol sound, to be inclusive of students with hearing impairments. Another example of a reasonable modification is to allow an individual born with only one hand to be allowed to finish a swim race with a "onehand touch" as opposed to the "two-hand touch" finish rule for certain strokes. As you can see, inclusion can be a reality in all aspects of physical activity. The message is simple: Prevent Obesity, Be Inclusive.

The IFC, led by the Lakeshore Foundation in partnership with the American College of Sports Medicine, comprises over 200 organizations representing a cross-section of disability rights, sports, health/fitness, and civil rights communities. Recognizing the barriers that continue to limit opportunities for physical activity for individuals with disabilities in the school setting, the IFC works to expand opportunities for physical activity, exercise and athletics for individuals with disabilities. For more information, please visit and

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