Open Access Study protocol

Development and evaluation of a structured programme for promoting physical activity among seniors with intellectual disabilities: a study protocol for a cluster randomized trial

Marieke van Schijndel-Speet12*, Heleen M Evenhuis1, Pepijn van Empelen3, Ruud van Wijck4 and Michael A Echteld1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of General Practice, Intellectual Disability Medicine, Erasmus Medical Centre Rotterdam, P.O. box 2040, Rotterdam 3000 CA, The Netherlands

2 Ipse de Bruggen, Louis Braillelaan 42, Zoetermeer 2719 EK, The Netherlands

3 TNO, research group Life style, Locatie leiden Gortergebouw, Wassenaarseweg 56, Leiden 2333 AL, The Netherlands

4 Centre for Human Movement Sciences, University Medical Centre Groningen, P.O. Box 30001, Groningen 9700 RB, The Netherlands

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:746  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-746

Published: 12 August 2013



Older people with intellectual disabilities have very low physical activity levels. Well designed, theory-driven and evidence-based health promotion programmes for the target population are lacking. This paper describes the design of a cluster-randomised trial for a systematically developed health promotion programme aimed at improving physical activity and increasing fitness among seniors with intellectual disabilities.

Methods and design

The Intervention Mapping protocol was used for programme development. After defining the programme’s objectives, the following behavioural techniques were selected to achieve them: Tailoring, Education, Modelling, Mirroring, Feedback, Reinforcement and Grading. With professionals and managers of provider services for people with intellectual disabilities, we translated these strategies into a structured day-activity programme, that consisted of a physical activity and an education programme. The programme will be executed in five day-activity centres in groups of eight to ten seniors during eight months, whereas seniors in five other centres receive care as usual. The physical activity level, as measured in number of steps a day, will be used as primary outcome measurement. Secondary outcome measurements include motor fitness, cardio respiratory fitness, morphological and metabolic fitness, ADL, functional deterioration and depressive symptoms. Differences in the primary and secondary outcome measures between participants and controls will be analysed using generalized estimation equations, correcting for day-activity center as cluster.


This paper provides insight into the development and content of a theory-driven intervention aimed at behavioural change in a population with a low intellectual level. Its evaluation design is described. The programme’s applicability to other populations is discussed.

Trial registration

Trial number: ISRCTN82341588

Health promotion; Intellectual disabilities; Intervention mapping; Evaluation