Exercise is for Everybody

Why is physical activity important?

The health benefits of engaging in physical activity are well documented. Individuals do not need to engage in strenuous physical activity to achieve to see improvements in their health. The Surgeon General’s report on Physical Activity and Health1 recommends that individuals should start with small sessions of activity and build up over time in terms of not only the amount of time being physically active but also in the intensity of the activity.

Individuals with disabilities are less likely to engage in regular moderate physical activity than people without disabilities. Nationwide, more than 25% of individuals with a disability reported being physically inactive during a usual week compared to 12.8% of those without a disability2. However, individuals of all sizes and abilities can benefit from being physically active, including those with disabilities3.

The model below illustrates how an individual’s environment is influenced by the person and influences the person’s healthy decisions to engage in physical activity.

Larger Community

  • Special Olympic chapters
  • Physical activity facilities that are accessible
  • Adaptive physical activity programs


  • Inclusion in physical education and activity in the school day
  • Active academics in the classroom
  • Inclusion of adaptive wellness programs at work


  • Healthy and supportive role models
  • Access to adaptive physical activity equipment

A supportive family and friends group can be very helpful in developing an activity program and staying involved. Individuals with disabilities should consult their physician before beginning a physical activity program that is different from what they have done in the past1. Communities can also support adaptive physical activity for individuals with disabilities by considering accessibility in facilities for physical activity, incorporating the perspectives of persons with disabilities in the planning of activities, and incorporate activity early in childhood through the K-12 system.


1U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, and the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. A report of the Surgeon General. Physical Activity and Health: Persons with Disabilities. Accessed at: https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/sgr/pdf/disab.pdf on March 6, 2019.

2U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2010. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/healthy_people/hp2010.htm.

3U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Available at: https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/paguide.pdf.