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Intellectual Disability and Exercise

Written by Li-Ling Kam (Student from The University of Sydney). Article from February 2019 

Intellectual Disability and Exercise

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What is Intellectual Disability?

Intellectual disability refers to an impairment that reduces a person’s ability to communicate, participate in activities, and learn and understand information. This impairment presents itself before adulthood and can be categorised as mild, moderate, severe or profound. This classification can indicate the severity of the impairment and one’s ability to cope independently in-home and public environments, with many utilising the assistance of a carer for daily living.

There are several types of intellectual disabilities; some of the most well known include Autism, Down Syndrome and Developmental Delay.

Why People With Intellectual Disability Should Participate in Exercise

Exercise is commonly neglected in this population due to the physical limitations and challenges associated with intellectual disabilities. Research has indicated that less than 10% of adults with an intellectual disability actually achieve the above minimum level of exercise per week. This could be possibly due to the severity of the impairment, their age, gender and/or level of independence. However, evidence has revealed that those that do participate in exercise can see improvements in their quality of life, self-esteem, fitness, strength and balance, as well as a reduction in the risk of developing type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, anxiety and depression. Furthermore, it can be a chance for them to interact with others and gain the social benefits of exercise.

As a student who has been given the opportunity to work with a range of people with intellectual disabilities, I have been lucky enough to experience first hand, the effect of exercise on their quality of life, health and daily living. If you or someone you know with intellectual disability can benefit from starting an exercise program, but are unsure of how and where to start, contacting Optimum Health Solutions’ accredited exercise physiologists is a great starting point. They will be able to chat with you and develop an appropriate exercise program to suit your needs.

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