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Frame Running: a new sport for children with limited mobility

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Action funding has helped develop a new sport for young people with cerebral palsy and other conditions that limit mobility. Frame Running, using a three-wheeled running frame, has been shown to improve fitness, muscle strength and performance of everyday activities, as well as having a positive impact on mental health and social interaction.

Children with cerebral palsy, as well as other conditions that limit mobility, can find it challenging to take part in physical activities. This can lead to a lack of exercise that persists throughout their lives.

With joint funding from Action Medical Research and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy Charitable Trust, Dr Marietta van der Linden and Dr Jennifer Ryan assessed how a new physical exercise, and sport, called Frame Running, could encourage children and young people to increase physical activity, and whether it has a long-lasting positive effect on their health and wellbeing. 

Teenagers across England and Scotland took part in the study, doing weekly training sessions for three months. This showed that Frame Running is a feasible, enjoyable and safe activity for children and young people with severe walking difficulties. Those taking part showed improvements in their resting heart rate, muscle strength and performance of activities, such as being able to walk for longer and walking uphill. They also said they enjoyed the sense of freedom and speed of Frame Running, and that it provided them with opportunities to be active and competitive. Parents felt that Frame Running can also act as physiotherapy or a rehabilitation strategy.

The experience gained during the Action project helped lead to the promotion of a new Frame Running group via World Abilitysport to develop a RunFree project, and attract more athletes throughout Europe.

The researchers hope results from the Action study, and follow-on work, will highlight the benefits of Frame Running more widely to families, physiotherapists, consultants, teachers, and disability sport providers. Within five years, they believe we could see community sports providers and schools initiating Frame Running groups to help even more children with cerebral palsy and mobility problems.

Being a frame running athlete does a huge amount for Poppy's mental and physical health”

Laura, mum of Poppy, a child who took part in this study