Being physically active is an important part of staying healthy. Running and walking outdoors are popular options, but people with disabilities, especially mobility disabilities, may not have full access to traditional parks and trails. Fitness facilities, such as gyms and health clubs, can offer alternative ways for people to be physically active, but those facilities may still present barriers to getting a workout since many fitness facilities may lack critical features that would enable people with disabilities to fully use the facilities and equipment to exercise.
People with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) have conditions like cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, or other genetic syndromes. People with IDD may have challenges with learning, communicating or decision-making, and sometimes, challenges with mobility. Previous studies have shown that adults with IDD are less likely to be physically active than adults without IDD.
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is lasting brain damage after a head trauma, such as from an accident. A TBI can cause symptoms that last for many years after the injury. Research has shown that fatigue is one of the most common long-term problems people may experience after a TBI. Fatigue may cause a person to feel too tired to keep up with work, family, or leisure activities. In past studies, regular exercise such as walking has been linked to lower levels of fatigue in people with many different types of disabilities, but this has not been well studied in people with TBI.
Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common movement-related disability in children. CP is caused by brain damage early in life that can limit the brain’s ability to control muscle movements. Although many children with CP can walk with or without assistive devices, they may develop stiffness or spasms in their muscles crossing the ankle, causing difficulties with gait, balance, or long-distance walking. A combination of stretching and strength-building ankle training exercises can help children with CP improve their walking abilities.
A spinal cord injury (SCI) occurs when the spinal cord is damaged, often from an accident or trauma. SCI can lead to a number of health challenges. Dyspnea, or frequent shortness of breath, is one challenge that can lower quality of life. According to some past studies, being physically active after a SCI may help prevent dyspnea and improve quality of life. In a recent NIDILRR-funded study, researchers looked at the connections between physical activity, dyspnea, and quality of life in people with SCI.
Obesity is a major public health concern and studies have shown that people with serious mental illness (SMI) may be at higher risk of being overweight or obese than people without SMI. Being overweight or obese can put people at risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other conditions. Wellness programs that promote healthy eating and exercise can help reduce these risks for people with SMI.
The contents of NARIC web site were developed under a contract from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (contract #GS-06F-0726Z). However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the NIDILRR, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government
National Rehabilitation Information Center 8400 Corporate Drive, Suite 500 Landover, MD 20785