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Katie Brooker, Kate van Dooren, Lyn McPherson, Nick Lennox and Robert Ware

Background:

Evidence suggests that most adults with intellectual disability do not participate in sufficient amounts of physical activity (PA). A systematic review of peer-reviewed studies that reported an intervention aiming to improve PA levels of adults with intellectual disability was conducted.

Methods:

Keywords related to intellectual disability and physical activity were used to search relevant databases. Studies were excluded if they did not measure PA as an outcome for adults with intellectual disability, were non-English, and were not peer-reviewed. All relevant studies were included in the review regardless of methodological quality and design.

Results:

Six articles met the inclusion criteria. These included health education or health promotion programs with PA, nutrition, and weight loss components. The quality of studies included in this review was generally poor. Most studies used a prepost design, sample sizes were small, and measurement tools were used that are not valid and reliable for the population assessed.

Conclusions:

PA interventions have the potential to improve the health and wellbeing of people with intellectual disability, a vulnerable group who require attention from public health practitioners and researchers. Given the health inequities that exist, public health researchers should target efforts to improve PA levels among this group.

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Katie Brooker, Allyson Mutch, Lyn McPherson, Robert Ware, Nick Lennox and Kate Van Dooren

To better understand how physical activity programs may contribute to improved health and social-support outcomes for people with intellectual disability, the authors conducted semistructured interviews with 11 people with intellectual disability and community-based volunteers in Brisbane, Australia. Three broad themes emerged: individual factors that generally facilitated activity, external factors that posed barriers to participation, and broader normative factors that directed participation. A key reflection arising out of the thematic analysis was that participants with intellectual disability and volunteers highlighted subtle but pervasive differences in barriers and facilitators to being active. Recommendations are provided for interventions aiming to improve physical activity and social support among those with intellectual disability. The authors’ research process demonstrates the utility of seeking the views of potential participants before program rollout to inform implementation and demonstrates the usefulness of a qualitative, actively inclusive approach to health interventions.