Research Study Abstract

Differences in Physical Activity among Youth with and without Intellectual Disability.

  • Published on June 30, 2014

Introduction: Very little is known about physical activity (PA) and PA patterns measured with objective methods among children with intellectual disability (ID).

Purpose: To investigate PA and PA patterns among Icelandic school children with mild-to-severe ID.

Methods: A sample of 91 children with ID and a randomly selected age- and sex-matched group of 93 typically developed individuals (TDI) took part. Basic anthropometric measurements were attained and PA was assessed with Actigraph accelerometers for 7-10 consecutive days. A questionnaire was used to collect data on PA behavior.

Results: Although children with ID were 40% less physically active and spent 9% more time sedentary than their TDI peers, there was an interaction between group and sex (p<0.05). TDI boys were more active and less sedentary than TDI girls (p<0.05) but no sex differences were found among children with ID on any PA variable. Also, there was no difference between workday PA and weekend PA among children with ID. Only 16% of children with ID walked or biked to school, whereas the proportion was 74% among TDI children (p<0.001). Similarly, a lower fraction (33%) of children with ID took part in 2 hours a week or more in sports compared to TDI children (76%, p<0.001). No children with ID met the recommendation of 60 minutes of daily moderate-to-vigorous PA, whereas 40% of the TDI children met the recommendation.

Conclusion: PA of children with ID is considerably lower than among their TDI peers and there appear to be no sex differences in PA and PA patterns among children with ID. The fact that no children with ID met the recommended daily MVPA calls for special PA measures in this group.


  • Einarsson, Ingi ór
  • Ólafsson, Ágúst
  • Hinriksdóttir, Gunnhildur
  • Jóhannsson, Erlingur
  • Daly, Daniel
  • Arngrímsson, Sigurbjörn Árni


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise