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Benefits of Physical Activity for People with Disabilities
Dealing with a disability can be frustrating and stressful. The inactivity of being contained to a bed or wheelchair leads many to live a sedentary lifestyle, taking a situation from bad to worse, and putting them at risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Furthermore, a lack of movement and blood flow can cause blood clots and body sores as well as an increase the chance of contracting illness. Although each individual’s situation is different, if you are disabled, getting physically active has never been so important.
Important: For anyone dealing with a disability, or a limitation in their mobility, you have to be careful to choose a form of exercise that is right for your situation. Talk to your healthcare provider before beginning any new physical activity. Ask them about weight, duration, and movement restrictions. The last thing you want to deal with is a fresh injury that delays your new healthy lifestyle choice.
If you have been inactive for a while, getting started can feel overwhelming, like climbing a mountain. You may find yourself asking, what’s the point? Will it really make any difference? A quick look at the benefits might help to persuade you to make a change.
Improves blood flow and bone density and helps to maintain a consistent weight.
Helps with flexibility and balance.
Greater physical control, energy, endurance and strength to perform daily activities.
Reduced risk of chronic disease such as diabetes and some cancers, as well as secondary disabilities.
Improved mood/mental state.
Reduced anxiety and depression.
Increased sense of self-worth.
More self-assured, independent, capable.
Helps bring focus on what you can do, rather than focusing on what you can’t.
Opportunities for new experiences and meeting people. Can get you out of the house and out of a rut. (Engaging in physical activity in a group of other disabled people can help you to not feel so alone, and allows you to discuss your goals/challenges with others who understand.)
More likely to have employment opportunities.
HOW TO GET STARTED: MOTIVATIONAL TIPS
Don’t do it alone/team up. Exercising alone can be grueling even for those that don’t have a disability. By partnering up with one or more people that are struggling with something similar, it can really help keep you motivated.
Make it fun. There’s no reason you can’t make exercise enjoyable. Sports that people confined to wheelchairs can participate in include track, basketball, football, rugby and golf. Other fun activities include dancing (in wheelchairs), horseback riding, canoeing, yoga and Tai chi, and this is only a sample.
Set a goal. For many people having a set goal to meet can give them a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Having a challenge gives us a sense of purpose and an even bigger sense of accomplishment once we’ve achieved the goal.
Take it to the pool. Great for cardiovascular fitness, pools are a good choice for those with a disability because they work your muscles without stressing your joints. Rowing machines and stationary bikes in fitness centers are also great choices.
Start slow and build up. Going headlong into an hour-long fitness routine is too extreme, especially if you’ve been inactive. Start out with 5 to 10 minutes of your chosen activity and increase the time from there, consulting your doctor along the way. By starting out small it will make it feel less overwhelming too.
If you are the caretaker of someone with a disability, talk to them about the benefits of being physically active for themselves and for everyone that loves them. It’s never too late to make a change and reap the rewards.
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