Physical Activity Patterns in Students with Physical Disabilities in General Physical Education and Inclusive Recess Settings


  • Jennifer Houston Mesa Public Schools
  • Hans van der Mars Arizona State University
  • Kent A. Lorenz San Francisco State University


Physical activity, disability, physical education, recess


Children with physical disabilities are at a higher risk for sedentary living than their peers because of their physical limitations that then can lead to deterioration in physical functioning (Sit, McManus, McKenzie, & Lian, 2007). This deterioration then leads to more inactivity (Sit et al., 2007). Along with the typically discussed problems associated with inactivity, such as obesity and heart disease, those with disabilities are prone to secondary conditions such as chronic pain, extreme fatigue, weight and eating problems, muscle spasms, respiratory infections, falls or other injuries, mobility issues, asthma and social issues (e.g., Rimmer & Rowland, 2008; Rimmer, Yamaki, Davis, Wang & Vogel, 2011). According to McKenzie (2002), participation in moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) during class is highly dependent upon how physical education subject matter is delivered (i.e., lesson context) and the instructor delivering it (i.e., teacher behavior) (McKenzie, 2002). Therefore, the purpose of this study was to observe and measure the physical activity (PA) levels of children with physical disabilities in inclusive physical education and recess settings.  The results indicate that students with physical disabilities are engaged in MVPA for an average of 10.25% of the inclusive physical education class time, and 17.5% during inclusive recess.

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Author Biographies

Jennifer Houston, Mesa Public Schools

Jennifer Houston received her doctoral degree from Arizona State University in 2014 after teaching K-12 physical education for 12 years and adapted physical education for five years. She has taught in the Physical Education Teacher Education (PETE) programs at Texas A&M University-San Antonio, Northern Arizona University, and Arizona State University. Currently Jennifer is an APE specialist for Mesa Public Schools in Mesa, AZ, as well as teaching several PETE courses for Arizona State University.

Hans van der Mars, Arizona State University

Hans van der Mars is a full professor at Arizona State University and is actively involved in the undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral degree programs in physical education teacher education-sport pedagogy. Van der Mars held a faculty appointment at Oregon State University for 15 years after previously holding faculty positions at Arizona State University (Tempe) and the University of Maine-Orono. He has been an active researcher in sports pedagogy/physical education teacher education for over 30 years. 

Kent A. Lorenz, San Francisco State University

Kent A. Lorenz is an assistant professor of Physical Education and Physical Activity in the Department of Kinesiology at San Francisco State University.  He completed a PhD in physical education and a graduate certificate in Statistics from Arizona State University.  His research interests are centered around creating positive environments for physical education and physical activity in schools using the Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program guidelines and a behavioral ecological support framework.





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