Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

New guidance to support disabled children and young people to be more active

The UK’s Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) have published new guidelines to support disabled children and young people to be more active.

The guidance recommends 120 to 180 minutes of aerobic exercise per week at moderate to physical intensity (such as walking or cycling).

They say the physical activity can be spread out in different ways, such as 20 minutes per day or 40 minutes three times per week, depending on the person’s preferences.

On top of this, the CMOs say that disabled children and young people should complete challenging, but manageable, strength and balance activities three times per week in order to build up strength and motor skills. This could be though indoor wall climbing, yoga or modified sports, such as basketball or football, for example.

They note that it is important to build up the exercise slowly to avoid injury and suggest that the activities are broken up into bite-size chunks to make it more manageable.

Tackling health disparities 

The guidance has been published as part of an initiative to get children and young people with disabilities active, as they are typically less likely to partake in regular exercise in comparison to their non-disabled peers.

The work therefore aims to tackle health disparities across the UK and minimise the risk of these inequalities widening with age.

Specific benefits that disabled children and young people can gain from physical activity include improved confidence and concentration, meeting new people and stronger muscles and improved motor strength.

An accessible infographic has been co-produced by the CMOs and disabled people and their families 

Alongside the guidelines, the CMOs have published an infographic which has been co-produced with more than 250 disabled children and disabled young people, their parents and carers.

The infographic is underpinned by research from Durham University, University of Bristol and Disabilities Rights UK and is the first of its kind to be co-produced with disabled children, young people and their families.

Dr Charlie Foster, Professor of Physical Activity and Public Health at the University of Bristol, who helped to produce the resources, said: “This process has shown me that public health messages will have more impact if they are co-created in genuine partnership with their target audience and users.

“This is a vital lesson for all those tasked with tackling current public health challenges as our existing resources are not as relevant and may not speak to or for certain groups.”


The physical activity in disabled children and disabled young people evidence review and infographic can be viewed here

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