Health Benefits of Physical Activity
"Physical activity has been shown to positively affect physical functioning and to prevent functional limitation (inability to carry out normal daily tasks and roles), especially in the elderly. Plausible mechanisms for this effect may involve reducing the incidence of chronic disease, the major cause of functional limitation, and maintaining the physiological capacity to enable normal functional performance. Physical activity is associated with optimal function and low incidence of functional limitation among relatively healthy persons. In addition, physical fitness has been found to be associated with a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and mortality (p. 1430)."
The fact that you no longer need be an elite athlete to achieve the benefits of physical activity has prompted public health officials to issue individual statements calling for Americans to become more physically active. In 1996, the Surgeon General's Office issued a report entitled, The Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1996). This report emphasized that physical inactivity is a major contributor to heart disease, adult onset diabetes, and colon cancer. Further, it stated that the level of health risk resulting from inactivity is similar to the risk resulting from smoking. The recommendation from the Surgeon General is that everyone should be moderately active for 30 minutes a day, preferably every day of the week.
In the draft document of the revised health objectives for the nation, Healthy People 2010, adoption and maintenance of a physically active lifestyle is also strongly reinforced (Office of Public Health and Science, 1998). The report notes that physically active people outlive those who are inactive, helps maintain functional independence in older adulthood, and improves the quality of life for persons of all ages. These findings, reports, and recommendations make it clear that an active lifestyle can have enormous health benefits. We must become proactive in motivating and inspiring persons with developmental disabilities to participate in regular exercise. In some respects, allowing a person with developmental disabilities to remain sedentary is the equivalent of malpractice. Staff and caregivers are responsible for the welfare of their clientele or siblings, and this includes maintaining and improving their health by encouraging regular intervals of physical activity.
More recently, the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans provides science-based guidance to help individuals with disabilities aged 6 and older improve their health through appropriate physical activity.