Getting fit can be a struggle for anybody, but it gets even more difficult when you are challenged by your mobility. There are hundreds of diet and exercise tips floating around however, there are much fewer resources out there for advice on accessible workouts. With that in mind, this article will be a good starting point for information about accessible workouts and exercises.
Why should I work out?
Not only is exercising good for staying fit and keeping healthy it has many other benefits that you may not even realise.
Exercise has been proven to make you happier. Not only is exercise good for your physical health it is also good for your mental health and just a little bit of exercise everyday can help lift your mood!
It’s a fantastic way to meet people. Exercising can mean you join some great clubs or groups and use your local facilities where you can meet some great, likeminded people.
Dawn Hughes from The English Federation of Disability Sport told us why she believes it is important everyone works out: “Exercise can offer a huge range of health and wellbeing benefits. Disabled people tell us they’ve experienced physical improvements in strength, coordination or stamina which make day-to-day activities easier. There are also mental health benefits such as improved confidence, making new friends and reduced social isolation.”
We also spoke to Kris Saunders-Stowe, owner of Wheely Good Fitness, a company that aims to bring easy exercises and workouts to those with low mobility about why it is important everyone exercises: “Regardless of ability, exercise is important to help maintain a healthy, functioning body, to reduce the risk of disease and conditions related to low activity levels and to help us live a more independent life. Where we are restricted by a physical limitation due to a disability or medical condition, the need to be active and look after our bodies is even more important.
“Weight gain, poor/deteriorating posture, both potentially leading to higher risks of developing other health conditions, along with loss of energy, poor mood and increased risk to cardiovascular disease, are just some of the ‘side effects’ of not being physically active. However, whilst having a disability or health condition can make it difficult to be as active as needed, it does not need to be a barrier to exercise or a justification to give up on taking care of ourselves. In many studies exercise has been shown to have a positive effect on depression and also on pain management and by improving our overall health, make us more able to fight disease for a healthier and more independent life.”
What can I do to work out?
There are a lot of options for an easy and accessible workout, even workouts that you can do in your wheelchair or mobility scooter. You can start off lightly and when you feel more confident build up your own routine, or you can just do a few exercises here and there whenever you get the chance, it’s whatever works for you.
Cardiovascular exercises should get your heart racing. It’s often hard to complete cardiovascular exercises with limited mobility as a lot of them can involve running or jogging.
A brilliant form of cardio is swimming. Swimming is not only rewarding and fun, it also allows you to work out without the impact of other cardio exercises like running. It’s a fantastic way to exercise your whole body, and a great thing to do with friends. Don’t worry if you have never swum before, most leisure centres offer adult swimming lessons, and some even have adults only sessions where the pace of the pool is much slower. If you are not sure where your closest pool is you can find out here.
An Australian study that focused on older men found that the men who swam as their regular activity were dramatically less likely to injure themselves or fall than men who did any other kind of exercise.
Muscle-strengthening exercises are also important, especially when you are a wheelchair user as you can over exert your arm and chest muscles which can cause your muscles to become tight and overworked.
You don’t need professional weights to start muscle strengthening, you can use resistance bands or even tins of beans to work out. If you are starting out be sure to use a lighter weighted item and ensure you are comfortable. You can do traditional biceps curls, or hold your arms out parallel to your shoulders and hold here for short bursts to strengthen your shoulders.
Kris of Wheely Good Fitness has supplied a range of easy, wheelchair-friendly upper body stretches to get you started:
Kris gave us some words of wisdom when it comes to exercising and fitness: “It’s important also to remember that just because you may not use or be able to use a part of your body (your legs for example), these areas do not need to be left out. Passive or assisted exercises, where someone performs or helps perform the movements for you where you are unable to, can help with stiffness, muscle tone and circulation.
“Improving our body is about taking our existing abilities and making them even better. Increasing our endurance and strength, so that we can perform tasks for longer or more easily. Challenging our bodies beyond our normally daily functions, increasing our breathing and heart rate to challenge the body so that it can improve.
“There are many things that we do on a daily basis that we once found hard, but as we have continued to do them our body has adjusted, and we don’t notice the effort required. An example perhaps is pushing in a wheelchair for the first time, finding it tiring and hard going, but over time it has become easier and pushing around generally is much easier. To challenge ourselves and improve, we need to tax ourselves. When something becomes easy, we need to make it harder. Instead of pushing in your chair at the pace your normally do, try increasing your pace to elevate your heart rate and increase your breathing.”
Wheely Good Fitness has also created a fantastic range of fitness DVD’s for people with limited mobility which you can be in with a chance of winning in the competition featured at the bottom of this article!
What other options are available?
If you find yourself wanting to exercise in a gym or fitness centre with access to professionals, there are some brilliant resources that could help you find what’s available to you locally. The English Federation of Disability Sport (or the EFDS) have started the Inclusive Fitness Initiative which has worked to support leisure centres to become more welcoming and inclusive. You can find their list of all the inclusive facilities here.
Dawn from the EFDS spoke to us about what you should be if you don’t have a local accessible facility: “We’d advise contacting your local gym and discussing your needs directly with them. Many gym and leisure operators have made great efforts to improve the accessibility of their services and actively want to welcome disabled people to their venues. If you feel your local gym isn’t for you or you’re looking for more opportunities to get active you could contact your local County Sports Partnership – they are the experts on what is available in each county. You can find details of your local County Sport Partnership.”
If you don’t want to go to a gym or fitness centre, you can also turn your attention towards clubs. You can look for clubs in your local area to get started, and if you are worried about how accessible don’t be afraid to get in contact and ask before you go. If you are looking for a list of accessible clubs, Parasport UK have a list of facilities and clubs and what needs each of these can cater for.
Win some Wheely Good Fitness DVDs
To help you focus on your fitness goals and keep active this year, we’ve got a selection of FREE fitness DVDs supplied by Kris from Wheely Good Fitness to send out to some of our customers. All you have to do is sign up to our email newsletter before 20th April to be in with the chance of winning. To sign up for our email newsletter simply head to the bottom of the home page, enter your email address in the box and click sign up. Or, if you already subscribe to our e-newsletters, just email “WIN” to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll contact the lucky winners via email to request address details. Best of luck!
Image Credit: CWSC Panthers, Wheely Good Fitness.