An alarming new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control finds that nearly half of adults with disabilities get no exercise and this significantly increases their risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.
“The bottom line is that physical activity is a wonder drug,“ says Dr. Ileana Arias, CDC’s principal deputy director. “Too many working age adults with disabilities get no aerobic physical activity and we need to change that.”
Researchers discovered that the 47 percent of those with disabilities ages 18 to 64 who get no aerobic exercise are 50 percent more likely to have a chronic disease. The findings were compiled from the National Health Interview Survey, conducted between 2009 and 2012.
According to CDC guidelines, adults should get 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic activity a week. The study encourages people with disabilities to exercise to their functional ability, even if it’s just pushing their wheelchair a little farther.
Solving this problem won’t be easy because health professionals don’t always discuss the need for exercise with their disabled patients. According to the CDC report, only 44 percent of adults with disabilities received a recommendation for exercise when they visited their healthcare professional within the past year.
Arias sees the current situation handled best through a team approach. “Everybody has a role to play to help adults with disabilities get more physical activity. At minimum, doctors, family members and friends should ask adults with disabilities, what are you doing to be active or how are you keeping active?” she says.