Author(s): Fernhall B
Recent social policies have focused on reentering persons with mental retardation (MR) into the work force and the mainstream of society. However, as individuals with MR age, their rate of institutionalization greatly outweighs that of the general population as well as children with MR. Health care organizations have expressed serious concern about the impact of an aging population with disabilities, particularly the cost associated with institutionalization. Considering that cardiovascular disorders are more common in population with than without MR, and that physical fitness has been directly related to work productivity among individuals with MR, physical fitness and exercise training have important implications for this population. Yet, available data suggest that individuals with MR have low levels of physical fitness, a higher incidence of obesity, and may respond differently to exercise training than persons without MR. This paper reviews current knowledge of physical fitness status, impact of exercise testing and training, and identifies differences between populations with and without MR, with special emphasis on trends associated with aging. This review is limited to three physical fitness components: obesity, cardiovascular fitness, and muscular strength and endurance, as these components have been shown to impact health and well-being, and are related to work performance of persons with MR. Suggestions for future research are also provided.