Graduate Research and Discovery Symposium (GRADS)

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Intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) include diagnoses such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Down syndrome (DS), and fragile X syndrome (FXS). Generally, individuals with IDD have an increased risk of experiencing poor functional fitness compared to adults without IDD, which can lead to an increased rate of health deterioration and reduced ability to complete activities of daily living. Functional fitness might be positively impacted by yoga, which is an ancient mind-body practice that that synchronously uses controlled breath practices, mindfulness, and physical postures. Yoga has generally been demonstrated to be effective for improving functional fitness for adults, both with and without disability. Little research, however, has been done regarding yoga for individuals with IDD. This single-arm pilot study measured pre and post test functional fitness after a yoga intervention delivered for 60-minutes twice a week for six weeks in a special population recreation center for people with IDD. Eligible individuals completed a battery of functional fitness physical performance measures. A team of yoga teachers and a yoga therapist developed a standardized intervention protocol to promote improving muscular strength and balance. Each yoga session included a standardized progression of postures, breath work, and guided meditation, and affirmations called “mantras” (e.g. I am strong, I am loved). Multiple modifications were offered for engaging in postures including participating from a chair. Each session ended with a four-minute relaxation pose. Pre- and posttest scores were compared using a Wilcoxon Signed Rank test and were further examined with a percent change calculation (Time 1-Time 2/Time 1 * 100). Nine participants assented and completed pre and post-testing. There was a significant improvement in three of the six functional fitness measures. This intervention study indicates positive outcomes to promote functional fitness among individuals with IDD. The preliminary significant results indicate that a yoga intervention may have the potential to enhance functional fitness in people with IDD.