Individuals with intellectual disabilities, such as Down syndrome, are more likely to lead sedentary lifestyles; however, it’s paramount for them to regularly move their bodies and remain active to improve their overall quality of life. Routine exercise helps reduce a multitude of health risks, aids in maintaining weight control and improves mental well-being. Learn more about the benefits of physical activity for individuals with intellectual disabilities and how Special Olympics North Carolina could be a great resource for your loved one.
1. Improve Cardiovascular Health
Individuals with intellectual disabilities benefit from any activity that increases their heart rate. Intellectual challenges often delay motor skills, making running and other aerobic activities more challenging. As a result, people with intellectual disabilities tend to lead a more stationary lifestyle.
Here’s the good news – Special Olympics North Carolina encourages individuals with intellectual disabilities of all skill levels to participate in our sports programs. We offer a wide range of aerobic activities where athletes can boost their cardiovascular health at their own pace.
2. Decrease the Risk of Obesity
Individuals with Down syndrome have higher risks of hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone. An under functioning thyroid leads to delayed motor skills, tiredness and weight gain. As a result, people with Down syndrome are at a higher risk of obesity than those without the condition.
Routine physical activity helps immensely with tackling obesity. Participating in extracurricular activities, such as athletics (track and field), swimming and flag football are all great ways to get exercise. Here at Special Olympics North Carolina, we offer the necessary activities to help those with intellectual disabilities stay active and decrease their risk of obesity.
3. Strengthen Bones and Muscles
The benefits of physical activity for athletes with intellectual disabilities include bone and muscle strengthening. Another side effect of hypothyroidism is muscle atrophy, which causes the body’s muscles to weaken making it harder for necessary joints and bones to stay in place.
Signing up to compete in Special Olympics gymnastics or cheerleading is a great way to increase bone and muscle strength. We have coaches thrilled to help improve flexibility and agility through physical exercise for adults and children with intellectual disabilities. With our top-of-the-line volunteer coaches and consistent training methods, your loved one will be able to improve their overall physical health.
4. Improve Mood and Mental Well-being
Physical exercise positively affects individuals with intellectual disabilities by drastically improving their mood. Developmental delays significantly impact the hormones of athletes with intellectual disabilities, leaving them feeling anxious or depressed more often. Consistent physical activity helps boost happy hormones and release endorphins that put athletes at ease. Notice how a quick walk around the neighborhood or playing catch instantly puts your loved one in a much better headspace. Here at Special Olympics, we have the resources to help our athletes improve their mental well-being through various activities for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
Incorporate Physical Activity with SONC
Staying active is essential for people of all abilities and skill levels. At Special Olympics North Carolina, we aim to create a platform where individuals with intellectual disabilities can safely improve their physical skills in the spirit of healthy competition, confidence building and community enrichment.
We offer 20 Olympic-type sports to 40,000 individuals with intellectual disabilities. Individuals who are as young as 8 years old can participate in our programming. Plus, we don’t have an age limit, meaning athletes who join can compete for life. If your loved one is younger than 8 and is interested in joining one of our teams, we do have a Young Athletes program for children ages 2-7.
To learn more about the activities we offer, inquire about your loved one becoming an athlete today.