Adaptive Functional Fitness (AFF) goals are different from able-bodied functional fitness goals because people with disabilities (PWDs) have to be able to perform demanding physical tasks just to be able to participate in many of life’s activities. In comparison, many of these same tasks are relatively easy for the able-bodied (ABs) to accomplish because the activities have been designed with them in mind. Therefore, typical ABs are primary concerned with using functional fitness training to increase their level of task performance as opposed to participation.
The average abled-bodied person’s primary limiting factor for participation in most of life’s activities is his or her motivation to participate. On the other hand, a PWD must have the physical capability to participate which many times requires having a relatively higher level of residual functionality in order to successfully adapt to the activity.
For example, in order for a handcyclist to participate in a bicycle ride with able-bodied riders, they must be in relatively better biking condition in order to keep up since they are using arms as opposed to legs. The same goes for going out for a walk, jog, or a run, a wheelchair user or amputee must have relatively better conditioning and technique to stay up with the pack.
When it comes to using exercise equipment, a person with a disability needs to first have the ability to transfer onto the equipment. Transfers are not a consideration for ABs. When a wheelchair user rock climbs, she (or he) will likely be using only her arms. Therefore, she must have a much stronger upper body than what is required by an AB. In these examples, Adaptive Functional Fitness training is required to be able to fully participate.
In a nutshell, able-bodied functional fitness training is about enabling people to perform at a higher performance level. Adaptive Functional Fitness training is initially about enabling people to engage in the activity in the first place. Once this goal has been achieved, then it becomes about increasing the person’s level of performance.
The Five Foundations of Adaptive Functional Fitness are the main components that make up AFF. In order for a person with a disability to engage in many activities of daily living and recreations, they must some degree of capability in each of the Five Foundations. The greater the degree of capability, the higher their overall level of functional performance and the wider range of activities available for his their participation.
The Five Foundations are Personal Mobility, Transfer Capability, Carrying Capacity, Resilience-to-Injury, Adaptive Performance Quotient:
1. Personal Mobility is the ability of the person to get from one location to another. It can be evaluated by using the following metrics.
a. Range of travel: The distance the person can travel.
b. Speed of travel: How fast the person can travel.
c. Maneuverability: Agility, Turning Radius, Backwards Movement, Sideways Movement, Stopping Distance, Speed Control.
d. The variability of environments the person is able to deal with.
e. The person’s independence from outside assistance.
2. Transfer Capability is the ability of the person to move his or her body from one surface to another. The metrics are:
a. Variability of surfaces
b. Independence from outside assistance
3. Carrying Capacity is the ability of the person to transport items from one location to another.
a. The variability of objects able to transport.
b. The variability of environments the person is able to deal with.
4. Resilience-to-Injury is the ability of the person to handle situations and events with a reasonably low risk of bodily and psychological injury.
a. The variability of environment
b. and the extent of situations able to be handled without injury.
5. APQ (Adaptive Performance Quotient) is a combination of human development based physiological, psychological, and neurological abilities that effects the person’s capability to perform. It is made up of the person’s:
a. Level of confidence in his/her capability.
b. Ability to accurately assess situations and personal capabilities.
c. Rapid decision making ability.
d. Coordination, balance, timing, and speed.
e. Complex skill acquisition and execution capability.
The APQ is scored relative to a comparable able-bodied person on a scale from -5 to +5. Where -5 represents a large overall Adaptive Performance Quotient deficit due to the person’s physical disability and 0 represents no such deficit. A positive APQ results when the person has a highly developed ability as result of his or her disability. The APQ score is typically negative due to the fact that people with physical disabilities have significantly less opportunity in their lives to develop the multiple areas of their APQ.
The Five Foundations provides a road map for adaptive functional fitness training. It is a list of the main areas that must be successfully addressed in order for a person with a disability to be able to function at a baseline level in many physical activities and recreations.