CDC Report: Aerobic Inactivity Linked to Increased Incidence of Chronic Disease in Adults with Disabilities

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During this year's Healthy Vision Month, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a new health-related Vital Signs report, entitled Inactivity Related to Chronic Disease in Adults with Disabilities, which notes that nearly 50 percent of U.S. adults with disabilities get no aerobic physical activity. Vital Signs is a monthly CDC report that provides the latest data and information on key health indicators.

More from CDC

The latest CDC report states that working-age adults with disabilities who do not get any aerobic physical activity are 50 percent more likely than their active peers to have a chronic disease such as cancer, diabetes, stroke, or heart disease.

Key findings of the report include the following:

  • Working-age adults with disabilities are three times more likely to have heart disease, stroke, diabetes or cancer than adults without disabilities.
  • Nearly half of adults with disabilities get no aerobic physical activity, an important protective health behavior to help avoid these chronic diseases.
  • Inactive adults with disabilities were 50 percent more likely to report at least one chronic disease than were active adults with disabilities.
  • Adults with disabilities were 82 percent more likely to be physically active if his or her doctor recommended it.
CDC exercise infographic

Infographic text: Nearly half of adults with disabilities get no
aerobic activity – and they are 50 percent more likely to report
at least one chronic disease than active adults with disabilities.

More Physical Activity Data from CDC

Excerpted from Inactivity Related to Chronic Disease in Adults with Disabilities:

CDC analyzed data from the 2009-2012 National Health Interview Survey and focused on the relation between physical activity levels and chronic diseases among U.S. adults aged 18-64 years with disabilities, by disability status and type. These are adults with serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs; hearing; seeing; or concentrating, remembering, or making decisions.

Based on the 2010 data, the study also assessed the prevalence of receiving a health professional recommendation for physical activity and the association with the level of aerobic physical activity.

"Physical activity is the closest thing we have to a wonder drug," said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. "Unfortunately, many adults with disabilities don't get regular physical activity. That can change if doctors and other health care providers take a more active role helping their patients with disabilities develop a physical fitness plan that's right for them."

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that all adults, including those with disabilities, get at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate–intensity aerobic physical activity each week. If meeting these guidelines is not possible, adults with disabilities should start physical activity slowly based on their abilities and fitness level.

Doctors and other health professionals can recommend physical activity options that match the abilities of adults with disabilities and resources that can help overcome barriers to physical activity. These barriers include limited information about accessible facilities and programs; physical barriers in the built or natural environment; physical or emotional barriers to participating in fitness and recreation activities, and lack of training in accessibility and communication among fitness and recreation professionals.

CDC has set up a dedicated resource page for doctors and other health professionals with information to help them recommend physical activity to their adult patients with disabilities.

Sports and Exercise for People Who are Blind and Visually Impaired

People who are blind or have low vision compete and participate in every possible sport, including running, skiing, cycling, and swimming. In some cases, the rules are modified; in other situations, adaptive techniques or equipment are utilized.

General Tips for Participating in Sports with Vision Loss

First, talk to your medical doctor and eye doctor before participating in any sport. Some eye and medical conditions can be affected by athletic activity that includes bending, lifting, straining, or pulling.

Do some research about your area of interest. Some adaptive sports may be represented by national groups, such as the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA).

Do some reading on your sports interests. Contact your local library or the National Library Service for books on tape and CD, in large print, and in braille.

Contact an athlete with vision loss and talk about adaptations that he or she uses in a particular sport. Your low vision specialist may be able to suggest a local group to contact.

See Recreation Services and Recreation, Sports, & Leisure Products for tips, answers to frequently asked questions, and resources for sports and leisure equipment and activities.

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