With enthusiasm and energy throughout the day

Intervention program to promote physical activity in people with intellectual disabilities.

Physical activity is healthy and fun – especially when it matches your own abilities and interests. People with intellectual disabilities have very individual ways of incorporating sports and exercise into their everyday lives. Between sedentary and stationary activities at work or in the private sphere, physical activity often finds too little room. With serious consequences, because lack of physical activity increases the risk of chronic diseases and the emergence of need for care. People with mental disabilities suffer disproportionately from lack of physical activity and its consequences. We want to change that!

Our goal is to introduce people with intellectual disabilities to regular, self-determined physical activity and to positively influence their health in the long term. To this end, we have developed a multi-stage intervention program to get those affected moving through recurring activities, practical everyday tips and supportive physical activity buddies. Join us and support your patients, residents and employees on this path. We will tell you how!

Why physical activity is important!

Studies show that physical activity levels are lower among people with intellectual disabilities compared to the general population – and often does not reach the World Health Organization’s physical activity recommendations either. This is 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or at least 75-150 minutes of intense physical activity during the week. Yet physical activity contributes to overall well-being. Regular phyisical activity strengthens the heart, muscles and bones. It reduces tension and relieves stress, because with it the body releases the happiness hormone serotonin. In short: exercise makes you happy!

Conversely, too little physical activity leads to unhappiness and increases the risk of chronic diseases and restrictions in mobility.

Our intervention „With enthusiasm and energy through the day“ aims to motivate people with intellectual disabilities to get moving every day according to their own physical and cognitive abilities in order to live healthier in the long term.

Promoting physical activity for people with intellectual disabilities

What exactly is the intervention „With enthusiasm and energy through the day“?

The intervention „Through the Day with enthusiasm and energy“ is a program that supports people with intellectual disabilities to get more physical activity in their daily lives. The program picks up the participants in their current individual movement status and shows in simple steps why physical activity is important and how one can easily integrate physical activity into everyday life in small steps. This is achieved through 12 brochures (the so-called manual), which is available in Easy Language and Simple Language, personal physical activities buddies as well as supporting offers in clinical, home and professional environments. Our intervention addresses all participants, from the management level as initiator to the participants themselves, in order to make the program tangible, feasible and successful for all participants.

What are the costs for my institution?

The project to develop and test the intervention was funded by the Stiftung Wohlfahrtspflege. The foundation is particularly committed to the immediate and sustainable improvement of the living conditions of people with disabilities, the elderly and disadvantaged children. Helping people to achieve a better quality of life so that they can lead a life with as much self-determination as possible – that is a good piece of practical solidarity for the Landesstiftung foundation. Therefore, development research has been financed with the aim of offering a free, practical methodological tool for everyday use.


How was the intervention developed?

Every person is unique. We all have different interests and abilities. Of course, this also applies to people with intellectual disabilities. This target group is particularly heterogeneous. That is, there are large differences in mental and physical conditions and abilities. This makes the development of an intervention to promote physical activity challenging, but also exciting.

A key component in the development of the intervention was to explore and record the subjective needs of people with intellectual disabilities. To this end, people with intellectual disabilities actively participated in the intervention development. Among other things, a research working group was established to assist in exploratory data collection, e.g., by creating interview questions, and to contribute their knowledge as people affected by the intervention.

The resulting interviews to explore individual health and physical activity-related needs, knowledge levels, and experiences and strategies in dealing with physical activity formed the basis for intervention development. The scientific framework was provided by findings on effective approaches in prevention and health promotion for people with intellectual disabilities (Latteck 2017) and a literature review of existing interventions to promote physical activity among this target group. In addition, intervention development was guided by the model of physical activity-related health literacy (Pfeifer et al. 2013), which describes individual physical activity-related competencies that underlie a commitment to sustainable health-oriented physical activity behavior.

The intervention was developed over approximately 2 years and piloted in the inclusion setting in summer 2020. In the process, it was successfully tested for suitability for everyday use.

If you are interested, please contact Dr. Dirk Bruland (dirk.bruland@fh-bielefeld.de).