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CDC: Disabled Less Active Than Others

Nearly Two-Thirds of Adults With Disabilities Don’t Get Enough Physical Activity
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 4, 2007 -- Most U.S. adults with disabilities don't get enough physical activity, according to new CDC data.

The CDC today reported that almost 38% of adults with disabilities meet minimum recommendations for physical activity, compared with nearly half of other adults.

Also, a quarter of disabled adults reported being physically inactive -- meaning they got less than 10 minutes of physical activity at a time over the course of a week -- compared with about 13% of other adults.

The CDC recommends getting at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity at least five days per week or to get at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise at least three days per week.

Examples of moderate activity include brisk walking, bicycling, gardening, or anything else that gets the heart rate or breathing rate up slightly.

Examples of vigorous activity include running, aerobics, heavy yard work, or anything else that causes large increases in heart rate or breathing.

Disability and Activity Data

The CDC's new report appears in tomorrow's edition of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Data came from about 350,000 people who participated in a nationwide health survey conducted by phone in 2005.

Participants were asked if their activities were limited in any way because of physical, mental, or emotional problems, or if they had any health problem that required special equipment such as a wheelchair or cane.

Those who answered yes were considered to have a disability. Almost one in five adults fit that category.

The survey only included people who aren't living in institutions, so the number of adults with disabilities may actually be higher, notes the CDC.

Staying Active With a Disability

WebMD talked to James Graves, PhD, dean of the University of Utah's College of Health, about physical activity for people with a disability.

"Physical activity is important for everybody," Graves tells WebMD.

"It is essential to maintain health and well-being, and there are a whole host of chronic diseases that are associated with physical inactivity," says Graves.

Graves says people with disabilities face "unique barriers" to physical activity, such as health and recreation facilities that have not been designed to accommodate them.

But skipping physical activity can worsen the situation when people with disabilities get out of shape.

"This deconditioning results in secondary help problems -- diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, etc." which "further exacerbates the limitations of the disability," Graves says.

His advice for people with disabilities of any kind:

  • See a doctor to get medical approval for physical activity.
  • Seek a well-known community health and fitness facility that has personal trainers who can at least get you started.
  • Gradually increase the intensity of your activity.
  • Look for ways to make your daily life more active.

Graves notes that the American College of Sports Medicine, the National Strength and Conditioning Association, and the American Council on Exercise certify personal trainers and "all include some training related to prescribing exercise for persons with disabilities."

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