Several studies have demonstrated that adults with ID have significantly lower rates of physical activity. These studies have also shown that the rates of physical activity vary with level of impairment. Premature aging may be experienced as advanced deconditioning, decreased mobility, decreased coordination and high level of dementia. Barriers may include lack of transportation to programs, limited fitness programs and staffing of individuals who conduct adapted programs. The majority of studies found were done with the DS population. Research has shown improvement in strength, balance, QoL, well being and drop in pain. The research showed positive outcomes for aerobic training, resistance training and balance training. Walking is also recommended as an easy mode of exercise for those with ID. Balance issues are common among adults with ID. It is believed that greater participation and adherence will be seen when a person has the ability to choose the level of their own involvement. Moderate to heavy resistance training may not be necessary because of no direct health or functional benefits. Currently there is a lacking in research examining physical activity for those with ID.
Bartlo, P., & Klein, P. J. (2011). Physical activity benefits and needs in adults with intellectual disabilities: Systematic review of the literature. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 116(3), 220-232.
Few studies have been done to look at the combination of physical activity and a health education program on the psychosocial well being of adults with ID. Individuals are more likely to change their exercise behaviors if they believe that their current lifestyle poses a threat to their goals and health, and if exercise can reduce that threat. Research in elderly subjects had shown that participation in exercise lowers levels of depression and increases self-confidence. Topics covered included; attitude toward health, food, exercise, gaining skills about healthy eating and identifying barriers to exercise and healthy eating. Most common barriers reported were lack of energy, boring, too difficulty, no motivation or health concerns. Interventional group in trial experienced more positive outcomes and confidence to perform exercise. There was also a significant difference seen in life satisfaction. Those in the interventional group were more likely to show reductions in levels of depression.
Heller, T., Hsieh, K., & Rimmer, J. H. (2004). Attitudinal and psychosocial outcomes of a fitness and health education program on adults with Down syndrome. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 109(2), 175-185.
This case study looked at aging individuals and the effects of weight training, cardiovascular training and stretching on overall health. Best results were seen with cardio based exercise, followed by stretching. A low-tech method was said to be the best way to approach the training, so it was least confusing for the participants. Also, a key finding was that different participants found differing length trainings to be more beneficial and enjoyable.
Carter, M. J., McCown, K. M., Forest, S., & Martin, J. (2004). Exercise and fitness for adults with developmental disabilities: Case report of a group intervention. Therapeutic Recreation Journal, 38(1), 72.
This systematic review observed physical activity aerobic based programs for children with disabilities. Positive results were seen in children who participated in running, biking or elliptical based interventions three times a week. These included kids with neuromuscular disabilities and CP. Horseback riding. Much research focused around the topic that when caregivers are involved in the physical activity, and are made aware of the huge benefits that will be seen by the participant, then physical activity levels go up. This should be a main goal, properly informing the caregivers of all the benefits of exercise.
Johnson, C. C. (2009). The benefits of physical activity for youth with developmental disabilities: a systematic review. American Journal of Health Promotion, 23(3), 157-167.
This paper examined three different trials that observed the effects of water based exercise with children who have been diagnosed with CP. In all cases, positive results where seen. These results included; improved flexibility, respiratory function, gait, muscle strength and motor ability. The environment is great for those with painful joints and/or muscles, due to the decreased gravity environment.
Kelly, M., & Darrah, J. (2005). Aquatic exercise for children with cerebral palsy. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 47(12), 838-842.