Montana State University

MSU, UM groups promote physical activities for people with disabilities

October 16, 2008 -- Anne Pettinger, MSU News Service

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Physical activity is just as crucial for people with paralysis and other disabilities as it is for any individual, according to spokeswomen for two organizations at Montana State University and the University of Montana.

The two groups - the Montana Nutrition and Physical Activity Program (NAPA) at MSU and the Montana Disability and Health Program at UM -- recently launched a campaign to promote physical activities after winning an $11,000 grant from the Dana and Christopher Reeve National Paralysis Foundation.

As part of the campaign, the organizations have compiled a list of fitness facilities and recreational opportunities all across Montana that they say are well suited for people with disabilities to use.

They stress the information is important for people's health.

"People with disabilities have higher rates of obesity, making it especially important that they are able to be physically active," said Ninia Baehr, manager of the NAPA program.

Spokeswomen for the groups said they applied for the grant because much of the information about the importance of physical activity for people with disabilities remains a mystery, as does specific information on which fitness centers are user-friendly for people with disabilities.

As part of the program, the groups researched fitness facilities in eight communities across the state to come up with a list of facilities that are well set up for people with disabilities to use. The groups also compiled lists of additional health and recreation options for disabled people in each community, including trails, camping and fishing spots, and fitness programs. Those communities include Bozeman, Billings, Butte, Miles City, Great Falls, Shelby, Helena and Missoula.

The groups estimate that nearly 75,000 Montanans with physical disabilities live in the counties in which those cities are located and could benefit from the information.

"Our hope is that people would use (this information) and would then be healthier and have more fun," Baehr said.

To view the information, visit the Montana Disability and Health Program's Web site at http://mtdh.ruralinstitute.umt.edu or the Montana Nutrition and Physical Activity Program's Web site at http://www.montana.edu/mtnapa.

Ninia Baehr, (406) 994-5686 or niniab@montana.edu