CDC: Adults with disabilities who don't exercise 50% more likely to have a chronic disease

ATLANTA — Working-age adults with disabilities who do not get any aerobic physical activity are 50% more likely than their active peers to have a chronic disease — such as cancer, diabetes, stroke or heart disease — according to a Vital Signs report released earlier this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nearly half (47%) of adults with disabilities who are able to do aerobic physical activity do not get any. An additional 22% are not active enough. Yet only about 44% of adults with disabilities who saw a doctor in the past year got a recommendation for physical activity. Adults with disabilities were 82% more likely to be physically active if their doctor recommended it.

“Physical activity is the closest thing we have to a wonder drug,” stated CDC director Tom Frieden. “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.”

Most adults with disabilities are able to participate in some aerobic physical activity which has benefits for everyone by reducing the risk of serious chronic diseases. Some of the benefits from regular aerobic physical activity include increased heart and lung function; better performance in daily living activities; greater independence; decreased chances of developing chronic diseases; and improved mental health.

Working age adults with disabilities are three times more likely to have heart disease, stroke, diabetes or cancer than adults without disabilities. Inactive adults with disabilities were 50% more likely to report at least one chronic disease than were active adults with disabilities. 

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.

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,    


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