Improvements in biometric health measures among individuals with intellectual disabilities: a controlled evaluation of the Fit 5 program

Lisa Wetzlmair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID) have poorer health statuses compared to the general population. Actions are needed to address health disparities and promote healthy lifestyles among individuals with ID. Moreover, studies that consider program settings for this population are needed.

Objective: The Special Olympics health program, Fit 5, was evaluated to assess effectiveness in improving health measures for individuals with ID. The settings of programs' implementation were also considered.

Methods: Four Special Olympics basketball teams participated as an intervention group, and three teams as a control group, in a study of the Fit 5 program that was implemented during, and as part of, a regular 8-week basketball season. Resting heart rate (RHR) and blood pressure, and height and weight to calculate Body Mass Index (BMI), were measured before and after the program. Differences in pre- and post-measures were compared between the two groups with paired samples t-tests and ANCOVA.

Results: Participants in the intervention group had significantly greater improvements in resting systolic and diastolic blood pressures (p = 0.02 and 0.03, respectively) and RHR (p = 0.003). BMI increased for both groups; however, the increase in the intervention group was significantly less (p = 0.006). The Special Olympics setting was considered familiar and supportive and effectively reached individuals with ID.

Conclusion: The Fit 5 program positively impacts RHR and blood pressure, and could help reduce extents of BMI increases, in individuals with ID when implemented in a common setting. Further investigation of the impact of Fit 5 and similar programs in additional settings is warranted.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100979
JournalDisability and Health Journal
VolumeIn Press
Early online date10 Aug 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Aug 2020


  • Health promotion
  • Health risk factors
  • Program settings
  • Intellectual disability
  • Physical activity


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