Exercise is important at every stage of life. For many people with disabilities there is a lack of education and encouragement to exercise. Outside of physical therapy a large amount of the disabled never workout.
Without physical exercise the disabled person becomes even weaker and with more health problems. Due to mobility issues, and lack of exercise causes muscles to atrophy with in turn can lead to obesity. Mobility issues can lead to serious medical conditions such as bed sores and ulcers to the skin caused by lack of movement or feeling in the limbs. Added weight gain to the body is very stressful on an already weakened body. Weight gain causes the body to work harder to do everyday tasks causing mobility and independence even harder to maintain.
The disabled are at a significantly higher risk to develop arthritis and chronic pain as they age. Pain can keep people from feeling up to moving around, but in the long run working out can help relieve pain by releasing hormones and loosening muscles.
I have lived with Spina Bifida and severe scoliosis since birth. It has caused restrictive lung disease. In order to live I require nighttime ventilation and a tracheostomy. My scoliosis is well over 100 degrees and in addition I also have neuropathy pain in my feet. I take medication to control the pain from nerve damage, but have found exercise is the best medicine. I try to walk and sprint in the warm small pool at the local YMCA. This helps maintain my 25% lung function. It is great cardio without stress on the joints. I have an open tracheostomy tube that runs straight to my lungs, and the warm 2”8’ pool is fairly safe for not getting water into the tube. Most public pools now have pool lifts for those with limited mobility to enter the water.
I also enjoy doing bodyflow once or twice a week at the gym. It’s a mixture of Yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi. I started doing bodyflow several years ago. It helps me stay flexible and fights off anxiety and stress.
At my after school job I get back to my childhood roots of playing kickball, dodgeball, basketball, and my favorite, football. I always loved sports both watching and playing. During the summer I play on a women’s softball team for my church.
My gym also offers classes called ATM: awareness through movement. I’m not sure how to describe it so I will just post what’s on my gym website. ANU Studio for well – being.
The Feldenkrais Method and the Anat Baniel Method are innovative movement systems that improve the way we move through life. Through gentle yet powerful movements you will increase range of motion and flexibility, alleviate pain and discomfort by learning how you move, develop a “whole body” awareness, play sports more powerfully, heal faster from injuries and make new neuro pathways in your brain. (Source: ANU Studio for WellBeing)
Gyms can be expensive and the good news is the YMCA can give people discounts based on your income. Some government programs will even pay or reimburse gym memberships. Of course you don’t need a gym to get movement going. I count cleaning my home and grocery shopping also as a workout.
Your disability or mobility may be different from mine. The only way you’re going to know what you can and can’t do is by trying. Do not be ashamed to modify your workout for your abilities. Disabled or able-bodied, in a wheelchair or not everyone can do a variety of different exercises. Even getting a little movement is better than none.
I also use a hot tub whenever possible and even spoil myself with an occasional massage. This helps loosen up painful muscles and gets the circulation going. In addition it helps with pain control. All these things help give me a better more active life. At one time I was in so much pain I wanted the doctors to cut my legs off. Thanks to medication and exercise I was able to get out of bed and avoid addictive pain medications. You have to put yourself first in order to live an independent and healthy life.