Today Longevity Exercise Physiology Drummoyne, EdgecliffMarrickvilleBella VistaRandwickPymble, Balmain and Neutral Bay discuss the importance of exercise for people with an intellectual disability or a developmental disorder. Longevity is open and the team are here to help keep you exercising.

What is an intellectual disability?
An intellectual disability (ID) is group of neurological conditions characterised by substantial impairment to intellectual functioning and adaptive behaviour. An intellectual disability is present prior to adulthood and impacts on everyday practical and social skills.

What is a development disorder?
A developmental disorder refers to impaired or delayed physical, behaviour, language or learning areas during the development period. These limitations usually impact everyday life and may extend into adulthood. However, with early intervention the impact of developmental disorders can be substantially reduced.

Common examples of intellectual disabilities and developmental disorders

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Down syndrome
  • Fragile X syndrome
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Why is exercise important?

  • Improved intellectual functioning, physical health, mood and behaviour are all associated with increased levels of physical activity in people with an ID[1].
  • People with an ID are more likely to develop diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure[1]. Exercise is important as it reduces the risk of developing these conditions[1].
  • Exercise is essential to improve the physical development of children with developmental delays.

What exercise is effective?
The exercise must be specific to the person and specific to the condition that is being treated. However, there are 3 key exercise rules that apply to all people with an intellectual disability.

  1. It must be engaging
  2. Encouragement is essential
  3. Start with basic movements and increase difficulty over time

Some condition specific considerations
Children and adults with Down syndrome are more likely to have impaired balance, joint hypermobility and breathing problems. Therefore, a program should involve some balance training, some strength training near the end range of a joint and aerobic training must be at an appropriate intensity.

Children/adolescents with autism spectrum disorder are more likely to have problems with co-ordination, behaviour and experience sensory hypersensitivity. Therefore exercises that challenge co-ordination, structured to assist in behaviour management and the environment must be considered when developing an exercise program.

Every condition and person comes with their own unique set of challenges and therefore it is recommended to get professional help from an Accredited Exercise Physiologist

Final word
Every condition and person comes with their own unique set of challenges and therefore it is recommended to get professional help from an Accredited Exercise Physiologist to assist with developing a safe and effective exercise program.

If you want to know more about how an Exercise Physiologist can help with your condition, contact Longevity Personal Training and Exercise Physiology Edgecliff, Pymble, Marrickville, Randwick, Drummoyne, Balmain, Bella Vista, Neutral Bay on 1300 964 002 to enquire today.



  1. Bouzas, S., Martínez-Lemos, R., & Ayán, C. (2018). Effects of exercise on the physical fitness level of adults with intellectual disability: a systematic review. Disability And Rehabilitation41(26), 3118-3140. doi: 10.1080/09638288.2018.1491646

Written by Josh Taylor