CDC Vital Signs: Physical Activity for Adults with Disabilities

Healthy Living Goal

More than 21 million US adults 18–64 years of age have a disability. Physical activity benefits all adults, whether or not they have a disability, by reducing their risk of serious chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers. Only 44% of adults with disabilities who visited a doctor in the past year were told by a doctor to get physical activity. Yet adults with disabilities were 82% more likely to be physically active if their doctor recommended it.

Working age adults with disabilities who get no aerobic physical activity are 50 percent more likely to have a chronic disease such as cancer, diabetes, stroke, or heart disease than their active peers, according to a Vital Signs report released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most adults with disabilities are able to participate in physical activity, yet nearly half (47 percent) of them get no aerobic physical activity. An additional 22 percent aren’t active enough.

The key findings of the report 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 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 their doctor recommended it.

Aerobic physical activity can help all adults, including those with disabilities, avoid chronic disease.   Physical activity is for everybody – and everybody can help.

  • Adults with disabilities can talk to their doctor about how much and what kind of physical activity is right for them.
  • Doctors and other health professionals can recommend aerobic physical activity options that match each person’s specific abilities and connect him or her to resources that can help each person be physically active.
  • States and communities can bring together adults with disabilities, health professionals, and community leaders to address resource needs to increase physical activity.

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