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Association found between inactivity and chronic disease in disabled adults

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Working-age disabled adults who do not participate in any aerobic physical activity are 50 percent more likely than their active peers to develop chronic diseases, says a Vital Signs report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)on May 6, 2014. Chronic diseases include cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or stroke.

Aerobic physical activity can increase heart and lung function, improve mental health, an improved ability to perform tasks of daily living, leading to greater independence. In a group of people with disabilities who saw a doctor in the previous year, approximately 44 percent of disabled adults got a recommendation to participate in physical activities.

“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 report used data from the 2009-2012 National Health Interview Survey and focused on the association between chronic diseases and physical activity levels among American disabled adults between the ages of 18 to 64 years-old. Researchers identified participants by the type of disability. The adults had difficulty with sight, hearing, walking or climbing stairs, or had cognitive disabilities such as problems making decisions, concentrating, or with memory.

Report highlights:

  • Nearly half (47 percent) of the adults with disabilities in the study were able to do aerobic physical activities but do not get any
  • An additional 22 percent of the disabled adults were not active enough
  • Working age disabled adults are three times more likely to develop cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke than adults without disabilities
  • Inactive disabled adults were 50 percent more likely to get at least one chronic disease than active adults without disabilities
  • Disabled adults were 82 percent more likely to become physically active if their doctor recommended it

Doctors and medical professionals can recommend options that can help disabled people participate in physical activities and help them overcome both physical and emotional barriers.

“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 CDC has created a webpage with information on physical activity and accommodations for doctors and medical professionals who work with people with disabilities.

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