Exercise & Disability

It is known that approximately 1 in 6 Australians live with a disability. This equates to around 4.4 million people. 

Because of the additional barriers that people with disabilities face, their physical activity and exercise levels are quite low, increasing their risk of developing other chronic health conditions. 

Health & physical activity level statistics

  • 24% of adults with a disability rate their health as excellent/very good compared to 65% of adults without a disability
  • 42% of adults with a disability rate their health as fair/poor compared to 7% of adults without a disability
  • 42% of adults with a disability report they experience low levels of psychological distress compared to 70% of adults without a disability
  • Based of waist circumference measurements, 76% of adults with a disability are more likely than adults without a disability (59%) to have an increased risk of developing a chronic condition
  • The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that 72% of people aged 15 years and over with a disability do not do enough physical activity compared to 52% of those without a disability

Why exercise is good for those living with a disability

Those living with a disability have similar needs when it comes to improving their health and decreasing the risk of developing unnecessary chronic conditions. Having a disability shouldn’t exclude someone from participating in exercise and physical activity. 

Participating in regular physical activity and exercise provides a variety of benefits for people living with a disability:

  • It improves stamina and muscle strength which may help with some forms of disability
  • Keeping active reduces the risk of chronic conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis and diabetes
  • The brain releases endorphins that delivers a ‘feel-good high’, helping ease anxiety and depression
  • Exercising in a group is a great way to meet new people, be social and become part of the community
  • It increases independence levels, sense of freedom and quality of life

How much physical activity is enough?

Children aged 5-17

This age group should balance high levels of physical activity, low levels of sedentary activity and an adequate amount of sleep each day for optimal health outcomes.

  • 60+ minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day
  • Several hours of different light physical activities
  • Activities that strengthen muscle and bone at least 3 days per week

Adults aged 18-64

Each week, adults should do:

  • 2.5-5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity (brisk walking, mowing the lawn, etc)
  • 1.25-2.5 hours of vigorous intensity physical activity (jogging, fast cycling, soccer, etc)
  • An equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activity 
  • Muscle strengthening activities at least 2 days per week

Older adults aged 65 and over

It is recommended that this age group be active every day in as many ways as possible whilst doing a variety of activities that incorporate fitness, strength, balance and flexibility.

The goal is to complete at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity on most, preferably all, days. 


Exercise for Disability. (2021, December 6). Exercise Right.