Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science




Diet and Exercise

First Advisor

Edward A. Pitchford


Adults with intellectual disabilities (ID) have increasing life expectancy, but a large-scale analysis of the presence of aging-related conditions in adults with ID is absent in the literature. The purpose of this study was to examine the associations between the presence of low muscle strength, high body mass index (BMI), and low bone mineral density (BMD) with age and sex in adult Special Olympics (SO) athletes from the United States (U.S.). Data were collected during 2018-2019 from U.S. male and female SO athletes, ≥20 years old, with diagnosed ID (N = 14,137; 42.4% female). Grip strength (n = 6,477; 40.9% female), chair stand time (n = 6,444; 40.5% female), BMI (n = 7,824; 43.7% female), and BMD (n = 3,091; 43.2% female) measurements were provided from the Special Olympics International Healthy Athletes System. Binary logistic regression analyses were performed to examine associations between age (banded by decades) and sex (male and female) with low grip strength, high chair stand time, high BMI, or low BMD based on established cut-points for sarcopenia, obesity, and osteopenia. Low grip strength, high chair stand time, high BMI, and low BMD were identified in 43.8%, 46.2%, 50.3%, and 28.7% of each sample, respectively. The coexistence of all four conditions was observed in 3.5% (n = 737) of athletes. Males were significantly more likely than females to exhibit low grip strength (OR = 1.88, 95% CI = 1.70 – 2.08; p < .001) and low BMD (OR = 1.27, 95% CI = 1.08 – 1.49; p = .004) and significantly less likely to have high chair stand time (OR = 0.88, 95% CI = 0.80 – 0.97; p = .013) and high BMI (OR = 0.56, 95% CI = 0.51 – 0.61; p < .001). Athletes who reported participation in ≥150 minutes of physical activity per week were less likely to have high BMI (OR = 0.78, 95% CI = 0.70 – 0.87; p < .001), while athletes who acquired 5-6 (OR = 1.49, 95% CI = 1.15 – 1.93; p = .013) or ≥6 hours (OR = 1.66, 95% CI = 1.25 – 2.21; p < .001) of screen time per day were at higher risk for high BMI. Odds ratios for all four outcomes increased with age, suggesting greater risk. Concerningly high prevalence of low grip strength, high chair stand time, high BMI, and low BMD was observed among the sample, indicating disparities in muscle, fat, and bone health. The presence of low muscle strength, high BMI, and/or low BMD can result in increased risk of falls and decreased mobility, independence, and quality of life for affected individuals, particularly with age. Early intervention toward modifiable risk factors for these conditions may be warranted in the adult SO population.


Copyright Owner

Morgan Bethany Cleveringa



File Format


File Size

92 pages