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SELECT a Lifetime of Physical Activity

by James H. Rimmer

While there is a strong and urgent need to promote higher levels of physical activity among all Americans, there is a particularly compelling need to address the low rates of physical activity among many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). A recent study by Havercamp and Scott (2015) found the risk of physical inactivity was 4.5 times higher compared to a group who had no disability. Unfortunately, many people with IDD have less access to many of the more engaging types of physical activity that increase the likelihood of long-term adherence to this important health behavior.

It’s time for individuals with IDD to have the opportunity to SELECT a physical activity program that will result in a lifetime of regular activity. The following are six critical characteristics of such a program, which are presented in the SELECT model in Figure 1:

We may have gotten it wrong by suggesting to people with IDD and other groups that the only approach to obtaining regular exercise across a lifetime is by purchasing a stationary bike or joining a fitness center. While this may work in the short-term, without multiple opportunities to hit a number of SELECT “buttons,” long-term adherence to regular physical activity will be a challenge.

Figure 1: SELECT Model of Physical Activity
Figure 1 graphic
  Figure 1 logos  

Note: The contents of this article were developed under grant number 90RE5009-01-00 from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR), Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents of this article do not necessarily represent the policy of NIDILRR, ACL, or HHS, and endorsement by the federal government should not be assumed.


Havercamp, S., & Scott, H. M. (April 2015). National health surveillance of adults with disabilities, adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and adults with no disabilities. Disability and Health Journal, 8(2), 165-172. Retrieved from

James H. Rimmer holds the Lakeshore Foundation Endowed Chair in Health Promotion and Rehabilitation Sciences at the Lakeshore Research Collaborative, University of Alabama, Birmingham. He may be reached at



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Citation: Traci, M., Hsieh, K., Anderson, L., & Gaylord, V. (Eds.). (Winter 2016). Impact: Feature issue on supporting wellness for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, 29(1). [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration and Research and Training Center on Community Living]. Retrieved from

The PDF version of this Impact, with photos and graphics, is also online at

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