Staying physically active, along with eating healthy, is one of the most important things individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID) can do to make sure their body stays healthy and in shape. However, many individuals with ID don’t get the recommended amount of physical activity per week. There are many reasons why individuals don’t get this recommend amount. Transportation issues, not knowing how to get started, and expensive and unaccommodating gyms are just a few.
Being physically active doesn’t mean they have to spend hours in the gym though. Finding small ways in daily life that they can increase their physical activity level will help them to become more active and healthy without having to set aside a lot of extra time, find transportation, or pay expensive fees.
Here are five easy ways to help individuals with ID infuse physical activity into their daily life.
- Walk – If they are in a wheelchair and can’t walk, wheel. If they live in community that is save and well paved, walking is an easy and free activity that has many great health benefits! Make it social and start a walking club in the community or with friends. If it’s close enough (and there’s a safe path) walk to the store to run small errands, etc.
- Dance – Turn up that music! Dancing is a great way to burn calories and most of all is fun! Set aside 10-20 minutes after lunch and/or dinner for dance time. It’s a great way to get up after a meal and burn some calories that doesn’t require any special equipment or skills.
- Stretch – Waking up ten minutes earlier and allowing time to do some proper stretching will help to get blood flowing and muscles warmed up for the day. Doing this every day will help increase flexibility, decrease injuries, and is a great way to wake up and get the day started.
- Garden – Growing and maintaining a garden is a great way to get in some extra activity and learn responsibility. And they’ll have fresh vegetables to show for it! It also encourages healthy eating and education as individuals learn about what they’re growing.
- Utilize TV time – Watching small amounts of TV is OK, but it’s still a lot of sitting time. Utilize the time during commercials to do small exercises such as squats, arms circles, or marching in place. You could even make a game out of it. This will give individuals a few extra minutes of activity per day while watching their favorite TV shows.
Finding small ways to gradually increase physical activity throughout the day will help to get individuals with ID in a happier mind frame and slowly expose them to fun subtle ways to be more active, without making fitness seem like a chore. Gradually, they will start to have more energy and be healthier without even noticing it!
For more information on health and nutrition, check out The Arc’s HealthMeet project, which strives to help individuals with ID improve their health and quality of life.