Physical activity program improves health in adults with ID

Guillermo Oviedo, PhD
University Ramon Llull, Barcelona, Spain

Individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID) have lower strength and cardiovascular fitness and also experience functional and balance difficulties. The goal of this study was to examine the effects of a physical activity intervention for adults with mild to moderate ID.

What did you do in your research?
We have implemented a physical activity intervention, which incorporated aerobic, strength, and balance training. The main objective of the intervention was to improve cardiovascular fitness, strength, balance, and functional performance. A total of 66 individuals with ID from Spain, were involved in this study. Of these participants, 37 were part of the intervention group and 29 part of the control group.

The intervention group trained three times per week (for one hour at a time), across 14 weeks. The control group did not partake in any exercise program. Measures of cardiovascular fitness, strength, balance, flexibility, and functional ability were taken before and after the program. Information was gathered for height, weight, waist circumference, and peak aerobic activity. In addition, participants took a functional test (6 minute walk test), strength measurements (handgrip and leg strength via dynamometer), flexibility measurements (sit and reach test, and shoulder flexibility via functional shoulder rotation test), and balance measurements.

What did you find out?
Body weight and BMI decreased slightly in the intervention group post intervention, while no such changes were noted in the control group. Waist circumference increased in the control group across time, while no changes were noted in the intervention group. In addition, the intervention appears to have increased participants’ cardiovascular fitness, handgrip strength, leg strength, and balance.

What are the take-home messages?
With a combined physical activity program, including aerobic, strength and balance components, it is possible to improve cardiovascular fitness, strength, and balance. Physical activity programs including aerobic and balance exercises should be part of daily activities for people with ID. They may improve both health and quality of life and potentially reduce the falls and injuries among adults with ID.

To learn more about these findings contact Guillermo Oviedo or visit the Project Website.

Full Journal Article
Oviedo, G.R., Guerra-Balic, M., Baynard, T., & Javierre, C. (2014). Effects of aerobic, resistance and balance training in adults with intellectual disabilities. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 35(11), 2624-2634. DOI: 10.1016/j.ridd.2014.06.025