The effects of aerobic exercise on psychological and behavioral variables of individuals with developmental disabilities: a critical review

Res Dev Disabil. Sep-Oct 1993;14(5):359-86. doi: 10.1016/0891-4222(93)90009-9.


Physical fitness of persons who are developmentally disabled has received relatively little attention in the special education literature when compared to intellectual functioning (e.g., learning, memory, and language) and to acquisition of functional skills (e.g., self-care, community, and vocational). Despite an increased interest in recreational programming stimulated by the concept of functional curricula, teachers may still be reluctant to include physical fitness activities in their students' schedules. Perhaps physical fitness programming for those with developmental disabilities would have wider appeal and application if it were embedded in the broader context of psychological and behavioral change (i.e., engagement in exercise produces generalized changes beyond direct improvement in physical well-being). This article is a review and critique of literature that focuses on the effects of participation in aerobic exercise on three classes of psychological/behavioral variables for persons with mental retardation and associated disabilities. The methodology that characterizes this literature is analyzed, and recommendations for future research are proposed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disabled Persons / psychology
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability / psychology
  • Intellectual Disability / rehabilitation*
  • Physical Fitness / psychology*
  • Quality of Life