Our movement’s true power lies in its ability to create change in the lives of the children, youth and adults registered in our programs, and in the communities in which they live. For people with an intellectual disability, Special Olympics is often the only place where they have an opportunity to develop a strong belief in themselves. Through Special Olympics, they begin to see themselves differently. Whether by stepping onto the ice or onto the track, they now see themselves as athletes who can do so much more.
Special Olympics seeks to empower people with an intellectual disability to achieve their personal best in all aspects of life, using sports to create opportunities for people with an intellectual disability to demonstrate excellence, improve their physical fitness, and create relationships through sports.
Health and Lifestyle Benefits
Research demonstrates that physical activity improves motor skill development, muscular strength, immune system functioning, sleep patterns, and diet and nutrition. In addition, physical activity and sports can improve health outcomes by reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer, conditions for which adults with disabilities are often at increased risk. Special Olympics is the ultimate prescription, as sport provides opportunities for athletes to get active and live healthier lifestyles.
Our research tell us that, when compared with individuals with an intellectual disability who are not engaged in Special Olympics, our athletes experience the following health and lifestyle benefits:
- 10% fewer athletes who are obese or overweight, vs average individuals with an intellectual disability;
- 20% fewer athletes with anxiety disorders due to access to sport, vs average individuals with an intellectual disability;
- Improved lifespan, and significantly improved overall health for Special Olympics athletes;
- 16% higher employment rate for Special Olympics athletes, vs average individuals with an intellectual disability.
Our programs provide participants with physical fitness and conditioning; improved balance, coordination and body control; increase in sport skills and competitive skills; and an increase in self-confidence and social skills. But Special Olympics is about much more than sports and fitness.
Special Olympics is a catalyst for social change.
The benefits of physical activity and Special Olympics sports participation extend beyond physical well-being. According to a study examining psychosocial outcomes, people with an intellectual disability who are involved in Special Olympics demonstrate increased ability to adapt to stressors compared to involvement in sports outside of Special Olympics and no sports at all. In another study, Special Olympics athletes show increased levels of self-esteem, self-worth, and social inclusion compared to non-participants. The impact of sports and Special Olympics also goes beyond the athlete. Participation brings families together and provides a social network of other families involved in Special Olympics. Community engagement increases awareness of intellectual disabilities and subsequently, acceptance of people with an intellectual disability. Thus, sports fosters increased inclusion and improved well-being.
See the benefits of Special Olympics for yourself! Learn more about Becoming an Athlete, or Apply to Volunteer.