Significant gains in cardiovascular status and mobility in children with disability, that emerged from a landmark University of Queensland research project, will be expanded to include further trials in Sydney, Perth and regional Queensland.

The Run4HealthCP program enabled participants with walking difficulties to use a frame to run.

“Young people between the ages of 8 and 21 years were recruited to take part in a 12-week randomised Frame Running trial, a sport tipped to be included in the Brisbane 2032 Paralympic Games,” Dr Sarah Reedman, from the UQ’s Queensland Cerebral Palsy and Rehabilitation Research Centres said.

“The improvements we’ve found so far in the clinical trial have been interesting across different areas of health and wellbeing. The athletes not only run for longer, but their heart rate also returned to normal more quickly.”

The project also uncovered quality of life benefits showing participants could walk faster, potentially improving efficiency of movement, Reedman said.

Run4Health involves two 60-minutes sessions a week, initially offered to 12 participants, but has been increased to over 100. Researchers are expanding the study to include assessments of bone density and gross motor function, and will operate across six sites in Brisbane, the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, Cairns, Sydney and Perth.

The work is being carried out in collaboration with The University of Sydney, Australian Catholic University, Curtin University, Queensland’s Children Hospital, Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network and Healthy Strides Foundation. Community partners include equipment supplier Dejay Medical and World Abilitysport.

People with CP have a 3-fold increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, compared to the general population, a statistic that hasn’t changed in 30 years. It is the most common physical disability in childhood with around 600 children diagnosed in Australia every year.

Applications to participate in the trial are being accepted here.

Photo: Study participant Scarlett Halliday with mother Katrina Halliday