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More Adults with Disabilities Need to Get Physical Activity

A new CDC Vital Signs report shows that aerobic physical activity is important for adults with disabilities and that the federal government, doctors and health professionals, states and communities, and adults with disabilities themselves have a role in increasing physical activity among adults with disabilities.  Adults with disabilities who get no physical activity are 50% more likely to have diabetes, stroke, heart disease, or cancer than those who get the recommended amount of physical activity.  Adults of all shapes, sizes and abilities can benefit from aerobic physical activity to help avoid these costly and deadly chronic diseases.


10 Important Things You Need to Know about Physical Activity among Adults with Disabilities

  1. All adults, including adults with disabilities, need to get regular physical activity for health benefits.  Avoid being inactive; some activity is better than none.
  2. Doctors and other health professionals can help.   Adults with disabilities were 82% more likely to be physically active if their doctor recommended it, than if they did not get a doctor recommendation. 
  3. Doctors and other health professionals need to know the Physical Activity Guidelines and help their patients with disabilities overcome barriers to reach their physical activity goals.
  4. Doctors can ask all patients at every visit, including adults with disabilities, about physical activity.
  5. Doctors can recommend physical activity options that match each person’s specific abilities, such as hand-crank bicycling, water aerobics and wheelchair basketball. There are a number of resources and programs that can help doctors match physical activities to the abilities of their patients and help them be physically active.
  6. Adults with disabilities can talk to their doctor about how much and what kind of physical activity is right for them. Regular aerobic physical activity increases heart and lung function; improves daily liv­ing activities and independence; decreases chances of developing chronic diseases; and improves mental health.
  7. Adults with disabilities can start physical activity slowly, based on their abilities and fitness level (e.g. active for at least 10 minutes at a time, slowly increasing activity over several weeks if necessary). 
  8. State and local communities can support physical activity, recreation, and sports-based program opportunities that are accessible to adults with disabilities.
  9. State and local communities can improve safe access to public places for physical activity that accommodate users of all abilities by incorporating community features such as proper curb cuts on sidewalks, ramps for wheelchair access, and well maintained trails.
  10. State and local communities can bring together adults with disabilities and their loved ones, doctors and other health professionals, and community leaders to identify available resources and address community needs to increase physical activity.

To learn more about CDC’s resources for disability and physical activity, visit


What CDC is Doing

CDC funds national and state programs to develop physical activity resources and programs for adults with disabilities.  Through Disability and Health Data System (DHDS), CDC is measuring state and national progress towards getting all US adults physically active.

To learn more about CDC’s national and state disability and health programs, visit




  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Vital Signs. Available at May 2014
  2. Carroll D, Courtney-Long E, Stevens A, Sloan M, Lullo C, Visser S, Fox M, Armour B, Campbell V, Brown D, and Dorn, J.  Disability and Physical Activity – United States, 2009-2012. MMWR. 2014.