Redefining Abilities through Wellness: The Past Five Years of Get FIT Have Seen Participants Adopt Healthy Lifestyles in the Comfort of Their Home, Learn Gym Etiquette So That They May Access Local Fitness Centers, and Transform Their Acquired Skills into Community-Based Lifestyle and Employment Opportunities

By Sonaike, Adeola | The Exceptional Parent, June 2013 | Go to article overview

Redefining Abilities through Wellness: The Past Five Years of Get FIT Have Seen Participants Adopt Healthy Lifestyles in the Comfort of Their Home, Learn Gym Etiquette So That They May Access Local Fitness Centers, and Transform Their Acquired Skills into Community-Based Lifestyle and Employment Opportunities


Sonaike, Adeola, The Exceptional Parent


"If I can do it, you can do it, too. There's nothing you can't do with Get FIT. You need patience, dedication and moderation. Instead of eating junk food, you can go grab an apple or a banana, or go for a walk; instead of just thinking about eating."

--Laura C.

Weighing 208 lbs. in 2009, Laura was excited when she had the opportunity to register for a fitness program that could be tailored specifically for herself. Laura was experiencing back pain. She also has cerebral palsy. Having CP reduced the number of opportunities Laura had to participate in community based recreational activities. Fearing that her back pain would worsen, or that she would become diabetic, Laura worked with her Get FIT trainer to develop a goal of losing 60 lbs. in 12 months. Laura's story is one of many that points to the positive impact of adopting a healthier lifestyle for an individual with a disability.

Get FIT features 10 to 14 week programs that combine fitness classes, nutritional guidance and lifestyle advice for individuals with disabilities and their family caregivers. Launched in 2008 by The Family Resource Network (FRN), with funding from The New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities, the Get FIT model has sparked a national movement discussing the health and wellness needs of individuals with disabilities.

As a leading statewide provider of family support services in New Jersey, FRN served 28,955 individuals in 2011 and was in the prime position to lead this innovative journey to wellness. FRN recognized that the goal of Get FIT was not simply to encourage everyone to go to the gym and lose weight but, rather, to create a supportive environment that openly discussed and achieved wellness for people with disabilities and their caregivers. The 'FIT' in Get FIT is the acronym for "fitness, integration, and training". Get FIT trainers challenge stereotypes and perceived barriers by motivating participants to set and achieve their own Get FIT goals in any setting. Using a holistic approach, Get FIT focuses on all aspects of an individual's life impacting his or her health; this includes physical, emotional, environmental and social support systems. Get FIT empowers the individuals so that they are in control of their own journey to wellness and motivated and supported by their Get FIT goals, Get FIT team and Get FIT family members. Allowing each individual to develop their own Get FIT goal creates an opportunity for their thealth and wellness skills to grow and transform throughout the lifecourse journey.

Starting at the beginning: Get FIT @ School

With childhood obesity on the rise, preventing obesity has become as important as reversing obesity. Childhood obesity has received national attention with school-based programs aiming to significantly reduce childhood obesity. Children with disabilities have a 38% higher rate of obesity in comparison to children without disabilities. Despite this, few programs or initiatives provide guidelines to provide children with disabilities with appropriate and tailored plans to fit their daily life needs. After a caregiver requested, "bring Get FIT to where our children already are, in a way that can fit into activities of daily living", we developed a school based program. Get FIT @ School has launched its first location in Lambertville, NJ. Get FIT @ School assists classroom and physical education teachers with creating structured programs that can increase physical activity and/or improve nutrition, both in school and at home for students of all abilities. Developing healthy habits starts during childhood, however these habits must be tailored, adapted and enhanced as one transitions from childhood to adulthood.

Transforming Attitudes: Get FIT @ College

Laura participated in the 12 week Get FIT @ College program, hosted by Rowan University, with external support from her family, "(my grandparents) kicked the junk food out of the house. …

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Redefining Abilities through Wellness: The Past Five Years of Get FIT Have Seen Participants Adopt Healthy Lifestyles in the Comfort of Their Home, Learn Gym Etiquette So That They May Access Local Fitness Centers, and Transform Their Acquired Skills into Community-Based Lifestyle and Employment Opportunities
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