Individual and Family-Based Approaches to Increase Physical Activity in Adolescents with IDD

The Dole building on a sunny summer day with blue sky and clouds.

Adolescents with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are less physically active and have lower cardiovascular fitness compared with their typically developing peers. Adolescents with IDD also face additional barriers to participation in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) including dependence on parents for transportation to exercise facilities, lack of appropriate exercise facilities, lack of PA professionals with expertise regarding the specific needs of adolescents with IDD, and lack peer support.

Previous interventions to increase MVPA in adolescents with IDD have met with limited success, at least in part due to requiring parents to transport their adolescent to an exercise facility, which represents significant barrier to families already dealing with the burden of providing routine care for a special needs adolescent. This project developed a remote system to deliver MVPA, led by a trained health coach, to groups of adolescents with IDD in their homes via video conferencing on a tablet computer. This approach eliminates the need for transportation, provides social interaction and support from both the health coach and other participants, and is feasible with minimal parent involvement. 

This project works to prove that the development of effective scalable and sustainable intervention strategies to increase moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in adolescents with intellectual and developmental disabilities may improve cardiovascular fitness and quality of life, and reduce chronic disease risk.

Project details

  • Primary Investigator: Joseph Donnelly

  • Project start Date: 07/26/2018

  • Project finish Date: 05/31/2023



  • National Institutes of Health

  • Award Number: R01HD094704