As Fit4Work continues to evolve, I have been using a few key exercises to build skills for youth with disabilities to build body strength. These include walking and carrying heavy things, improving balance in half kneel/tall kneel, and transition from floor to stand. One of the most important things we do as physical therapists is teach those who work with kids to carry out the activities we suggest on a regular basis. I made a few simple handouts to illustrate how to perform important Fit4Work activities that will encourage carryover at home and in classrooms.
1. Walking and carrying heavy things: in most work settings, and in life, we have to carrying things. At home this can include carrying items from the car to the house, carrying personal items, or carrying your book bag. In a work setting, youth might carry gallons of milk, cases of juice boxes, or cleaning supplies. Training for this is relatively simple, by dosing the activity as exercise increasing intensity/time engaged in the activity as tolerated. I often start with lightweight items that are present in a school, as shown by this young man carrying a basketball on his shoulder. Some of the youth I work with have a surprisingly difficult time, especially if they have underlying core strength, motor control issues of the upper extremities or balance problems. Here are some other ideas to train for these activities.
2. Squatting: Difficulty performing the squat was one of the first things I noticed when I began to develop Fit4Work. This handout shows pictures and simple cues to train for the strength and balance required for this simple move. I find many youth lack the neuromuscular components to complete this activity, and training can improve this in a relatively short period of time.
3. Kneel/half kneel: Recently, I have noticed some students with difficulties doing activities on their knees/half kneel. This position is required when working on lower heights, including stocking shelves or facing items. Sometimes you can't reach the back of a shelf unless you kneel and you need hands free to accomplish any task. Half kneel is more efficient to transition to stand. And while all of this felt very developmental at first, and not what I should work on with a 15 year old, I noticed that if a student did not have the ability to complete kneel/half kneel, that it really impacted their ability to perform some jobs that had a component of work below your knees. Which is most jobs...In this exercise sequence, we ask youth to stand, go to right half kneel, stand, go to left half kneel and return to stand. I have students work on this using their hands at first, and working towards competence without use of the hands.
Exercise dosing is based on tolerance and we work at first towards repetitions and then time for competency. A note about dosing: Sometimes, youth can do these 3 tasks for one repetition. The ability to do it once is not enough if they are to do it during the course of a work day...during 3 hours on the job, they may need to do it 10-15 times. The amount will vary, but it is important to train to more than what might be expected, so that on a good day the student can do it, as well as on a not so good day.
Let me know how these work out for you!