Making the Case: Fitness and Wellness Organizations

Exercise Program at Athlete Health and Fitness Advocates Workshop in Austria, 2017


People with intellectual disabilities (ID) have high rates of preventable health conditions, including hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Increased participation in fitness and wellness activities can improve their overall health and well-being. However, people with ID are less likely to engage in health promotion activities, and many fitness and wellness organizations do not know how to effectively serve this population and how to support the inclusion of people with ID in their programs.


Improve health for all
Regular exercise and participation in health and wellness activities can improve overall health, fitness, mental health, self-confidence, and quality of life for people with ID. Currently, people with ID have very low rates of physical activity. The majority of people with ID do not participate in any moderate physical activity, and only 10% meet the recommendations of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. By supporting the inclusion and participation of people with ID in your organization’s programs and activities, you can help reduce the high prevalence of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and physical inactivity among this population. Changes made to serve people with ID also will make your programs and activities more accessible for all people. For example, using concise easy to understand (non-technical) language in your communications will make your activities more accessible to people with intellectual disabilities but also to other participants.

Better serve your community
People with ID and their families are an untapped and underserved fitness and wellness market. Including people with ID in your fitness and wellness organizations will not only allow you to improve health outcomes for people with ID - it also will increase your memberships and lower societal health care expenditures. Ultimately, being more inclusive for people with ID will allow you to better serve your community and ALL who are a part of it.


The following activities can help you get started in supporting the inclusion of people with ID in your organization:

  • Get to know people with intellectual disabilities
  • Train your staff
  • Enhance your programs
  • Add financial assistance
  • Simplify paperwork
  • Improve physical access
  • Promote the new inclusive you

Read more here.