Physical Fitness Tips for Adults with Developmental Disabilities

A woman does yoga

Despite how critical exercise is for everyone at any age, few fitness gurus or communities discuss how to include people from all walks of life. As a result, fitness for individuals with disabilities is often overlooked. Still, those living with disabilities may stand to gain more from regular activity than anyone else. But why?


Why Physical Activity for Adults with Disabilities Matters

Physical activity is crucial for all adults. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of moderate physical activity and two days of muscle-strengthening activity each week. 

But physical activity for people with disabilities can look different from what many are accustomed to. That doesn’t mean adults with disabilities need any less exercise, though. In fact, those with disabilities may benefit more significantly from regular activity than their peers.

Some key benefits of regular physical activity include:

  • Improved Mental Health. Exercise promotes the release of feel-good chemicals in the brain, promoting better moods and higher satisfaction levels.
  • Stronger Body. Even light activity can help strengthen joints, muscles, and bones, helping adults stay healthier longer and experience more life has to offer.
  • Better Physical Health. The risk of many chronic health conditions – like cardiovascular disease – decreases significantly with regular exercise. More movement usually means a healthier life overall.
  • More Independence. Getting stronger and staying that way helps adults independently navigate their homes and daily lives. Exercise overall promotes independence by keeping you in top shape so you can do the things you want to.

How to Exercise with a Disability: Our Tips

Even with the benefits of exercise in mind, understanding how to bring physical activity into your life can be tricky. There are indeed legitimate challenges adults with disabilities might face when it comes to exercising. But these challenges only have to be as limiting as you allow them to be.

Below are some tips related to physical activity for adults with disabilities that can help you get started.

Move in an Approachable, Fun Way

Learning how to exercise with a disability can be an opportunity for exploration. There’s no right or wrong way to exercise, so get creative! How can you comfortably and safely move to elevate your heart rate and engage your muscles? 

Some adaptable exercise options to consider include:

  • Yoga
  • Dancing
  • Swimming and water aerobics
  • Walking around the neighborhood
  • Gardening
  • Completing household chores

These are just a few examples, but the best ideas will likely be those tailored to your preferences. 

Physical and other limitations don’t have to be obstacles between you and exercise you enjoy. Consider what you do and don’t want to do, but also the things you’re unsure about. 

Exploring new things over time is a great way to make fitness a journey and keep things interesting.

Stay Consistent

If you want physical activity to be a part of your lifestyle, not just something you do on occasion, you’ll want to be consistent. Routines can take several weeks to form, but once they’re solidified, they’re much more likely to stick around than casual habits. 

Part of being consistent is setting realistic goals. Don’t immediately shoot for everyday activity if you’re starting from zero. Try one day a week, then two, and so on until you reach your goals.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

No one has the same fitness journey as someone else, regardless of their ability status. Don’t judge your progress or goals based on those of others. Focus on what works for you. 

This includes recognizing your strengths, too. Highlight the things you love and that give you confidence, not what you think you should be doing.

Get Social

If you can connect with other people while exercising, you’re probably more likely to stick with it. 

Bringing a friend or loved one along with you can work, but so can meeting new people who share your interests. Joining a fitness class is a great way to get to know others. You might also join a local club or online group to find people you can talk to and get advice from. 

Your fitness journey is personal, but it might also benefit from some outside encouragement or perspective.

Creating a Disability-Friendly Fitness Plan

It helps to have a sense of where you’re going as you embark on your fitness journey. What are your ultimate goals, and what are some smaller ones? What resources will you need to achieve them? 

You deserve to be in the driver’s seat as you make choices that affect your health and wellness. 

Person-centered planning is a key tenant of our services here at NeuroNav. Our team is here to help shed light on resources like California’s Self-Determination Program, which supports people with disabilities as they pursue their goals. 

Our mission is to help you discover what success looks like to you and how to get there. Reach out today to learn more about our services. Or, book a free consultation to see how we can help you.



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