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How One Program Is Delivering Fitness to People With Developmental Disabilities

July 1, 2014
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How One Program Is Delivering Fitness to People With Developmental Disabilities
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A personal trainer and his colleagues offer classes that cater to people who have limited fitness opportunities.

There are a list of reasons why attending a fitness class can seem daunting. But the most popular one might be your inability to keep up with the class. Some individuals may find that they’re uncomfortable in typical fitness settings, but one program is helping this nervous group achieve their fitness aspirations.

Fitness instructors at Kensington, Md. have launched Spirit (Social Physical Interactive Respectful Inclusive Teamwork), a fitness program that offers classes for clients with developmental disabilities. In these classes, fitness instructors help these individuals build muscle, increase flexibility and improve their diets.

The fitness program is equipped with certified personal trainers, and caters to development disability needs. Jared Ciner, the executive director who helped launch Spirit in April 2013, developed a curriculum just for these individuals. Each class includes partner exercises and group activities, but also leaves extra time for people to ask questions. In addition, clients are also given homework assignments, which includes an exercise to practice and a nutrition tip to follow.

Spirit began when Ciner created the Spirit Club as a separate entity from his job at a local gym. Although more than 100 students have participated in the classes at the Chevy Chase Athletic Club and the Arc of Prince George’s County, he was happy to help create a separate studio for Spirit in a space that formally housed a bookstore. With the help of staff and the local community, the program had the funds to create a facility built with gym flooring, a wall of mirrors, a boxing stand, a weight rack, and of course, a sound system, “so we can make it fun,” Ciner told The Washington Post.

But what makes the fitness program even more unique is one of its leaders, Sam Smith, a certified personal trainer who also has autism. Suffering from his own developmental disorder has made him uniquely qualified to handle the kinds of clients Spirit receives. “Sam gets [clients] engaged more than a typical functioning trainer would be able to,” he said.

Ciner and his colleagues hope to expand Spirit Club by adding specialized offerings to the schedule. Students will soon be able to sign up for hour-long Zumba, yoga or self-defense classes.

“It’s evolving into an environment where people with and without disabilities can feel comfortable working on all aspects of health,” he said.

DON’T MISS: Watch How This Boy With Autism Renders His Class Speechless

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