Evidence on benefits of physical activity for people with learning disabilities yet to be translated into practice


Regular physical activity is a cornerstone of good health and previous studies have shown that many people with learning disabilities do not engage in such activity.

This systematic review set out to critically assess the evidence on the effectiveness of physical activity interventions for adults with learning disabilities. The authors found eleven clinical studies that met their inclusion criteria. The interventions in the studies included a variety of physical activity modes.

Following the review, the authors conclude that there is moderate to strong evidence that physical activity positively affected balance, muscle strength, and quality of life in individuals with learning disabilities.

However, many of the findings of what worked were not being routinely translated into everyday practice, specifically they suggested, physical activity programmes adaptable to the needs of individuals with a learning disability.

Physical Activity Benefits and Needs in Adults With Intellectual Disabilities: Systematic Review of the Literature, Bartio P & Klein P, in American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 16, 3, 220-232.

Physical activity; systematic review

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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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