A GULLANE teenager with a rare neuromuscular condition has found taking part in a pioneering study at Musselburgh-based Queen Margaret University “life transforming”.

Poppy Smith, 13, a pupil at North Berwick High School, has paralysis and weakness in her upper body and core due to acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), which she developed at age six, and uses a wheelchair.

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She takes part in frame running, which a new study has found has the potential to “positively affect health and wellbeing of young people with limited mobility”.

It was said that researchers observed a trend towards improved muscle strength after 12 weeks of frame running training, and many participants noticed an improvement in their performance of activities, including being able to walk for longer and walking uphill.

Frame running (formerly known as RaceRunning) is an adapted sport for children, young people and adults who cannot run and who rely on aids for mobility and balance.

A frame runner is a three-wheeled frame with a saddle and body plate supporting the individual. The athlete propels against the frame using their feet, and steers using handlebars like those on a bike.

Poppy with her frame runner

Action Medical Research and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy Charitable Trust funded the study.

Poppy’s mum Laura said: “For Poppy, frame running and participating in the study has been life transforming.

“As a result of developing acute flaccid myelitis, Poppy had to learn to sit, stand and walk again and uses a wheelchair. She also has a gastrostomy (feeding tube) to help her get the nutrition she needs and uses a ventilator at night to help her breathe.

“Before the illness, Poppy was a very sporty child and loved running, but as a result of the illness, she could no longer run or take part in any sport safely – until she discovered frame running.

“The opportunity to try frame running was a positive turning point in Poppy’s life.

“She left one of her early sessions with a massive smile on her face and said: ‘Mummy, I am so happy that there is a sport that I can do.’

“She felt strong and accomplished, and it gave her a huge confidence boost.”

Poppy meets ballet dancers who were visiting her ward in late 2016, when she was six, during her nine months in hospital, when she was receiving rehabilitation

Dr Marietta van der Linden, from the Centre for Health, Activity and Rehabilitation Research at QMU, said: “Our research showed that frame running can have a wide range of benefits, not only on outcomes of fitness and physical fitness but it also allows young people to feel part of a club, make friends, compete and go fast.”

In the pilot study, 15 children and young people with cerebral palsy or acquired brain injury affecting coordination took part in a one-hour weekly frame running training session for 12 weeks.

Dr Caroline Johnston, senior research manager at Action Medical Research, said: “The success of this research in demonstrating the health benefits of frame running is significant, as it could result in people with mobility problems and cerebral palsy participating in physical activity and reducing their risk of heart disease and diabetes.”

John Cowman, chief executive at the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, said: “It is so brilliant to see the results for this study, which clearly show that frame running has a very positive impact on the health and wellbeing of young people with limited mobility. Hopefully, this research will pave the way for it to become more widely available for children, young people and adults who rely on aids such as this to take part in sports and to be able to enjoy all that it has to offer.”