Adolescents with learning disabilities had low physical fitness and high prevalence of obesity


We have posted many times about the issue of overweight and obesity in people with learning disabilities. This study in France set out look at health-related fitness in adolescents with learning disabilities and to analyse various performances in physical fitness tests according to degrees of obesity in that poopulation.

The researchers worked with 87 French adolescents with learning disabilities aged around 14 years. They performed the EUROFIT physical fitness test battery (a set of nine physical fitness tests covering flexibility, speed, endurance and strength.)

They also measured height, weight and waist circumference, and calculated the BMI and waist-to-height ratios. ‘Bio-impedancemetry’ was used to evaluate body fat (BF) percentage.

In the study, 94% of the adolescents completed the aerobic running test, 52% of which had low VO2max, (the maximum capacity to transport and use oxygen during exercise reflecting physical fitness of an individual)

37% were obese and 32% had excess visceral adipose tissue.

They also found that the adolescents with the lowest cardiorespiratory fitness had the highest body fat percentages

The authors conclude that adolescents with learning disabilities:

showed low physical fitness and high prevalence of obesity. Both could further worsen social participation and health status.

Physical Fitness and Fatness in Adolescents with Intellectual Disabilities, Salaun L et al, in Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 25: 231–239.

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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