The Benefits of Exercise for People With Intellectual Disability 


Approximately half a million Australians live with some type of intellectual disability. A broad term, “intellectual disability” encompasses all conditions which affect an individual’s cognitive function. Intellectual disabilities can play a large role in preventing healthy behaviours and cardiovascular health, Indeed, a large proportion (91%) of people living with intellectual disabilities suffer from low activity levels, obesity and poor diet. This often leads to poor secondary health outcomes over time: by age 60, most adults with an intellectual disability live with three or four secondary health conditions.

Hopwever, regular aerobic exercise has been shown to prevent the development of cardiovascular disease and help develop heart health for people living with an intellectual disability. 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise, or 75 minutes of high intensity aerobic exercise has been demonstrated as one way to promote heart health. 

What Modalities Can People With Intellectual Disabilities Perform? 

There are a range of exercise modalities which people living with intellectual disabilities can perform to get the required number of minutes of exercise for good heart outcomes. Cycling, walking, running, rowing or dancing can be performed in two to five sessions per week. The cardiovascular benefits of these modalities become evident after eight to twelve weeks, but for long-term health, two to five sessions per week should become a weekly routine throughout the person’s life. 

People living with certain intellectual disabilities such as Down Syndrome or Prader-Willi Syndrome may experience difficulty walking, so exercise selection should cater to their physical capability for exercise. In cases such as these, swimming or cycling may be a better choice because less balance is needed to successfully complete a session. At the end of the day, exercise programs should be tailored to the individual’s ability to adhere with the program. Exercise programs should also be crafted to the preference of the participant to make it easier to sustain the routine. Consideration should be given to multiple modalities each week, individual and group exercise sessions. 

Individuals living with intellectual disabilities can easily achieve better cardiovascular health outcomes and enjoy a healthier standard of living simply by being active. A tailored program written by a physiotherapist promotes the best chance of establishing good habits to promote physical activity and good heart health. 

Call Erko Physio to Plan Your Exercise 

If you or someone you know are living with an intellectual disability and are struggling to get into shape, contact Erko Physio today for the best local advice the Inner West has to offer. We can help you plan an exercise plan from start to finish to ensure that you are exercising at an appropriate pace and looking after your physical health. Our Alexandria physiotherapy is easily accessible from Erskineville, Newtown and Marrickville too. Trust the experts at Erko Physio to plan your exercise routine and improve your cardiovascular health.