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CDC: Inactivity ups risk of chronic disease for adults with disabilities

Thursday May 8, 2014
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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 new study.

The CDC released study findings May 6 in a Vital Signs report.

Nearly half (47%) of adults with disabilities who are able to do aerobic physical activity do not get any. Another 22% are not active enough, according to the report. Yet only about 44% of adults with disabilities who saw a physician in the past year got a recommendation for physical activity.

“Physical activity is the closest thing we have to a wonder drug,” CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, said in a news release. “Unfortunately, many adults with disabilities don’t get regular physical activity. That can change if doctors and other healthcare 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, including increased heart and lung function; better performance in daily living activities; greater independence; decreased chances of developing chronic diseases; and improved mental health.

For this report, 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 ages 18-64 years with disabilities, by disability status and type. For the study, adults with disabilities were defined as adults with serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs; hearing; seeing; or concentrating, remembering or making decisions.

Based on the 2010 data, researchers also assessed how common it was for adults with disabilities to receive a recommendation for physical activity from a healthcare provider and whether the recommendation was associated with the level of aerobic physical activity.

Key findings include:

• 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% more likely to report at least one chronic disease than were active adults with disabilities.

• Adults with disabilities were 82% more likely to be physically active if their physician recommended it.

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

Healthcare professionals can recommend physical activity options that match each person’s abilities 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.

“It is essential that we bring together adults with disabilities, health professionals and community leaders to address resource needs to increase physical activity for people with disabilities,” Coleen Boyle, PhD, MShyg, director of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said in the release.

CDC resource page: www.cdc.gov/disabilities/PA.


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