Share this article on:

Physical Activity Levels of Children with Intellectual Disabilities during School


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: August 2009 - Volume 41 - Issue 8 - p 1580-1586
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31819d4438
Basic Sciences

Introduction: Current guidelines recommend school-age children accumulate at least 60 min of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) on most days of the week. Little is known about the activity level of school-age children with intellectual disabilities (ID).

Purpose: To evaluate physical activity patterns of children with ID during three school settings: adapted physical education (APE, 55 min), classroom (CR, 55 min), and recess (RE, 25 min).

Methods: HR was measured by telemetry for 15 youth (6 boys, 9 girls, 8.8 ± 2.2 yr) with ID during APE, CR, and RE on three nonconsecutive school days. Resting HR (RHR) was measured on three nonconsecutive days between 8:00 and 8:45 a.m. The mean of the five lowest RHR was used to create MVPA cutoffs. Total MVPA was determined by the mean time spent (min) above 1.25% RHR (PAHR-25 Index) in each of the three school settings. Three (one for each environment) random effects two-level models (measures nested within child) were used to describe the proportion of time students spend in MVPA across the three environments and to examine the within-child variation across measures within locations.

Results: The total daily MVPA across the three environments was 83.5 min (72.9-94 min). Intraclass correlations ranged from 0.06 to 0.53, suggesting considerable within-child variation across the three observations across settings.

Conclusions: Although variation existed across observations for each child, on average, children met and exceeded recommendations for 60 min of MVPA during the day. Theses findings suggest that through allocation of time for APE and RE, coupled with programming designed to maximize activity opportunities, students with ID can achieve recommended levels of MVPA.

1Department of Physical Therapy, Wichita State University, Wichita, KS; 2Exercise Science, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC; and 3Newton Unified School District, Newton, KS

Address for correspondence: Kenneth H. Pitetti, Ph.D., FACSM, Department of Physical Therapy, College of Health Professions, Wichita State University, 1845 Fairmount St, Wichita, KS 67260-0043; E-mail:

Submitted for publication September 2008.

Accepted for publication January 2009.

© 2009 American College of Sports Medicine