Vital signs: disability and physical activity--United States, 2009-2012

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2014 May 9;63(18):407-13.


Background: Adults with disabilities are less active and have higher rates of chronic disease than the general population. Given the health benefits of physical activity, understanding physical activity, its relationship with chronic disease, and health professional recommendations for physical activity among young to middle-age adults with disabilities could help increase the effectiveness of health promotion efforts.

Methods: Data from the 2009-2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) were used to estimate the prevalence of, and association between, aerobic physical activity (inactive, insufficiently active, or active) and chronic diseases (heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer) among adults aged 18-64 years by disability status and type (hearing, vision, cognitive, and mobility). The prevalence of, and association between, receiving a health professional recommendation for physical activity and level of aerobic physical activity was assessed using 2010 data.

Results: Overall, 11.6% of U.S. adults aged 18-64 years reported a disability, with estimates for disability type ranging from 1.7% (vision) to 5.8% (mobility). Compared with adults without disabilities, inactivity was more prevalent among adults with any disability (47.1% versus 26.1%) and for adults with each type of disability. Inactive adults with disabilities were 50% more likely to report one or more chronic diseases than those who were physically active. Approximately 44% of adults with disabilities received a recommendation from a health professional for physical activity in the past 12 months.

Conclusions: Almost half of adults with disabilities are physically inactive and are more likely to have a chronic disease. Among adults with disabilities who visited a health professional in the past 12 months, the majority (56%) did not receive a recommendation for physical activity.

Implications for public health: These data highlight the need for increased physical activity among persons with disabilities, which might require support across societal sectors, including government and health care.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disabled Persons / rehabilitation
  • Disabled Persons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult