Fitness Accessibility for People with Disabilities
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Table of Contents
How You Can Help
About Fitness Accessibility in Our Community
Overview of Issue Impacts
Physical activity plays an important role in maintaining health, well-being, and quality of life. According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, physical activity can help control weight, improve mental health, and lower the risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Physical activity can also improve mental health by reducing depression and anxiety. For people with disabilities, physical activity can help support activities of daily living and their independence. It is recommended that all adults, with or without disabilities, get at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of aerobic exercise per week. However, less than half of U.S adults with a mobility disability report engaging in aerobic physical activity and report more environmental barriers such as sidewalks, public transit, and walkable shops and more barriers like traffic, crime, and animals than those without disabilities. One in four U.S. adults is living with a disability and can be defined as:
- Serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs
- Deafness or serious difficulty hearing
- Blindness or serious difficulty seeing
- Serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Difficulty doing errands alone or difficulty dressing or bathing (1).
Having a disability is not an indicator of poor health. In fact, people with disabilities look toward fitness facilities to meet their health and exercise needs. For many people with disabilities, exercise is a necessity for management of their condition. Furthermore, accessibility is more than a ramp into the building or a larger toilet stall. Equipment, programs, and policies contribute to an environment that promotes accessibility for people with disabilities. It can be argued that even the basic requirements of the ADA are not sufficient enough to offer the flexibility needed to allow people with disabilities to meet their exercise goals. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), is an important piece of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all activities, programs, or services including fitness facilities. To comply with the ADA, businesses must make people with disabilities able to get into and around their facility, and receive the same benefits, services, and information provided by all other participants. The number of people who experience some kind of disability during their lifetime increases as the population ages. This creates more opportunities for fitness facilities to expand their business practices towards people with disabilities (2).
Lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating combined is the second leading preventable cause of death in North Carolina. Being overweight and obesity can lead to disability as they can result in arthritis, breathing problems, osteoarthritis, asthma and psychological disorders such as depression. People who have disabilities are more sedentary than others who do not, which puts them at high risk for obesity. People with disabilities experience obstacles specific to their condition which can hinder their physical activity. Moreover, one out of five North Carolinians will have a disability during their lifetime. It is because of this statistic that the North Carolina Plan to Promote the Health of People with Disabilities, or NC Plan for short, was established to improve the health and well-being of people with disabilities in North Carolina by promoting increased access to services and opportunities and by decreasing health disparities (3).
Populations Affected by Issue
Folks with Disabilities 21 million
More than 21 million US adults aged from 18 to 64 have a disability, (4).
Health Conditions 3x
Adults with disabilities are 3 times more likely to have heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or cancer than adults without disabilities, (4).
Influence of Healthcare Providers
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. However, only 44% of adults with disabilities who visited a doctor in the past year received a physical activity recommendation from their doctor, (4).
61.5% of adults with disabilities reported participating in physical activity or exercise, compared to 77.1% of adults without disabilities, (3).
71.9% of adults with disabilities have a body mass index greater than 25 (overweight or obese), compared to 64.9% of adults without disabilities, (3).
Connected Community Issues
- Physical Activity for People with Disability, CDC
- Removing Barriers to Health Clubs and Fitness Facilities, NC Office of Disability and Health
- North Carolina’s Plan to Promote the Health of People with Disabilities, NC Office of Disability and Health
- Increasing Physical Activity Among Adults with Disabilities, CDC
Interested in learning more about this issue? Check out some of these books, articles, documentaries, podcasts, and more. We’re also a Bookshop affiliate! Explore even more suggested Triangle Cause Wiki Reads. If you find something you like and make a purchase through our shop, Activate Good will receive a portion of the sale.
Documentaries and Videos
Podcasts and Other Resources
Thank you to the following contributors:
- Spring 2021:
- Robert C.
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Last updated April 2021
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