Physical activity is one of the most overlooked aspects of a healthy lifestyle for individuals with IDD. Studies suggest that on average, persons with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities have decreased cardiovascular and strength compared to more able-bodied individuals.

As the days continue to get warmer and brighter, now is an excellent time to shake the cold out of our bones and stretch our muscles. Below are 5 super simple exercises for adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.

Knee plank

The knee plank is a super easy way to make your core a bit stronger. This exercise can help reduce risk of back injuries and help improve balance.

Begin by kneeling on the floor, then slowly lower your upper body down and rest on your forearms. Your bottom should be raised and your knees slightly bent. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds. If it seems a little too easy, try lifting your feet off the ground to improve your balance even more!

High knees

High knees is a great exercise because it works multiple muscles below your waist, helps improve oxygen flow to your legs and, best of all, can be done anywhere! 

Stand up tall and straight with your chin straightforward. Lift one knee up to your waist quickly while swinging your arm on the same side. Alternate legs for 30 to 60 seconds. 

Arm circles

Arm circles are awesome for getting your blood flowing in your arms, and making them and your shoulders stronger!

Stand up straight and tall, hold both arms out to your sides as high as your shoulders, then move them in small and large circles for 30-60 seconds. Be sure to alternate the direction of the circles. 

Single-leg balance

Standing on one leg is great for improving balance and reducing knee and ankle pain. It also helps make your core stronger and more stable when moving around.

Stand up straight and tall, and lift one foot off the ground while bending your knee. Remember to keep your leg straight down. Hold as still as you can for 30-60 seconds! Alternate legs. 

If you are having trouble balancing, try placing a chair just to your side. When you start to wobble, hold onto the chair lightly and when you are comfortable, try to let go for a few seconds.


Doing squats is an excellent way to strengthen your lower body muscles from your bottom to your legs. When these muscles are strong, getting out of bed, bending, and moving can feel much better and cause less pain.

Begin by standing up straight and tall. Lift your arms directly in front of you at shoulder height. Lower your bottom down as if you are going to sit down without using your arms. Stop when your bottom is level with your knees, then stand back up. Do this 10-12 times. 

More exercise options at Angel Guardians

Part of Angel Guardians’ core services is our Community Connections program which offers many activities including physical activities that mix fun and exercise to get you or your loved ones with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities moving and healthier. Some of our favorite activities include swimming, bowling, dancing, art therapy, cooking, and volunteering!

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