Introduction to Achieving A Beneficial Fitness for Persons with Developmental Disabilities
Author(s): Dr. James Rimmer
Context and Importance:
This article is relevant to multiple audiences including disability, health, fitness, professionals, community- based service providers, program administrators, managers, CTRS, families, and caregivers.
The article highlights how physical activity levels have declined over the last 30+ years and specifically demonstrates that activity levels for people with developmental disabilities is lower than their peers without disabilities. Since people with developmental disabilities are prone to the development of secondary conditions, the author highlights the importance of cardiovascular endurance, strength and flexibility in the development of a fitness program and offers guidelines and examples of exercise to support development and implementation of a fitness / physical activity routine.
The article reviews physical activity trends for people with developmental disabilities. The article highlights research which shows that people with developmental disabilities have lower rates of physical activity and higher rates of obesity. Dr. Rimmer cites several studies which demonstrate the importance of physical activity in the prevention of disease and disability. Dr. Rimmer also offers targeted, research-based guidelines for exercise and physical activity.
Research has shown that fitness levels of people with developmental disabilities are lower than people without disabilities. The article reviews trends, specifically how levels of physical activity have decreased due to advances in technology (e.g. cellphones and internet) and a movement from an agricultural to a technology-based society. Trends are showing increasing rates of inactivity which lead to increased rates of obesity, disease and disability. The article also identifies the differences between physical fitness, exercise, and physical activity.
The article reviews a number of research studies which show activity levels for people with developmental disabilities are lower than the general population. Adults with developmental disabilities who live in the community do not participate in leisure-activity at the same level as adults without disabilities; and research shows that people with developmental disabilities are more inactive. The article cites studies which show strength levels for people with developmental disabilities are 50 percent lower compared to adults without disabilities and obesity rates are higher. Research also shows that bone mineral density is significantly lower in adults with developmental disabilities.
People with developmental disabilities are more likely to develop secondary conditions (e.g., stroke, heart disease). The article identifies the need to improve cardiorespiratory fitness for people with developmental disabilities. The article notes that one of the most challenging aspects of a physical fitness program for people with developmental disabilities is improving cardiovascular fitness; noting the most important component of a fitness program is cardiovascular endurance. The article review the 3-2-1 principle.
The article highlights recommended guidelines for:
- Calorie expenditure,
- Target heart rate and how to calculate it;
- Exercise intensity, frequency, duration,
- Strength Training and Flexibility, and other program development strategies including example exercises.
Conclusion & Recommendations:
The article emphasizes that an exercise program should include cardiovascular endurance, strength and flexibility. The article offers practical strategies to motivate people with disabilities to engage in physical activity and support adherence to an exercise program.