Last month, I wrote this post in response to an article about walking as a means to improve health and fitness. When I hit “publish” I had no idea what type of reactions, if any, my readers would have. My fellow wheelchair-using readers all said, “Right on!” Or something very similar.
Then, more and more people started asking me about options for physical activity for people with disabilities. I started to provide information when a friend posted this comment on my Facebook page:
Why don’t you research and write your own article on fitness for those with disabilities?
Before long, the idea took hold. Why don’t I do more than just complain? While I am not an expert on physical fitness, in my prior career I did spend time researching and writing about health and wellness for people with disabilities. So, here goes my attempt to tackle this topic. Keep in mind, I am not a person who loves to exercise. In fact, I am pretty much a person who would rather do data entry into an Excel spreadsheet before exercising. And I HATE data entry.
Whenever anyone asks me about fitness for people with disabilities, I start by referring them to the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD), a “public health practice and resource center on health promotion for people with disability.” NCHPAD works to improve health and wellness for people with disabilities through increased participation in physical and social activities. Their website is a wealth of information and a great resource for people of all ages and abilities.
I really like their campaign How I Walk. The movement aims to rebrand the word ‘walking’ so everyone is included in the many walking initiatives. Through images, like the one below, videos and social media messaging, the campaign hopes to show how walking is an activity for people of all ages and abilities – even those of us who cannot “walk” in the traditional sense of standing on two feet and putting one foot in front of the other.
I especially like this campaign because I regularly go for walks in my community. From April to October, as long as the weather allows, I spend at least part of every weekend taking walks on many of the local bike paths and trails. My favorites are the Old Champlain Canal Trail and the Erie Canal. Parks & Trails New York has a great interactive map for people who want to explore the Erie Canal, which stretches across New York State. I enjoy being out in nature, and the trails allow me an accessible opportunity to explore. And while I may not be actively wheeling a manual chair, the simple act of maintaining balance and equilibrium on an uneven surface still requires muscle use. Trust my knees and hips on that!
Sometimes people hear “exercise” and immediately think “gym” or “fitness center.” While I do have many disabled friends who do exercise regularly in fitness centers, that has never really been an option for me. My physicians have discouraged extended land exercise for me, so the benefits of joining a gym do not merit the expense. Instead, with the help of my Personal Assistants (PAs) I perform regular stretching at home and use exercise bands a few times a week.
The one activity my doctors and physical therapists agree is great for me is aqua therapy. Three mornings each week, I go to a local therapeutic pool and complete an exercise routine focused on strength and cardio. I’m not going to lie – I love the pool but I still hate exercise. I go regularly because it reduces pain and makes me feel better to spend three hours each week in warm water. I am privileged to have the income to be able to afford a membership, and PA staff who can accompany and help me. These are obstacles for many of my disabled peers.
Exercise doesn’t need to be organized or expensive though. I have friends who exercise by turning up the radio in their house and dancing to their favorite tunes. Other friends of mine count on their intimate moments with partners to burn some extra energy.
Any movement that gets your blood flowing and heart pumping is better than no movement at all!
12 thoughts on “Exercise for Every Body”
I love that your posts educate and help us gain a deeper understanding of the plights for so many. Thank you!
I am glad you find the information helpful. Thank you for letting me know.
I am looking forward to this series. I just had a conversation with someone that was all about the “can’ts” and you are all about the “maybe you can”
I have always found it helpful to try to “work with what ya got” rather than focus on what is not possible. I hope you are able to help others find the possible.
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I loved the way you came to Tasmania Australia and ‘walked’ with me from the art pavilion near the Derwent Entertainment Centre to MONA (walking the Derwent project). That was a special treat for me. There is always a way to do everything. Unfortunately, I have learnt a new less happy fact recently. A couple of weeks ago I tripped and badly banged up my knee so that on the few occasions when I have left the house I have needed a walking stick. And then found I have been subject to discrimination and rudeness for my (what is temporary) disability. I have learnt a lot from this experience and most disappointingly I have learnt more about the negative sides of human nature. As a result I have a tiny appreciation of what you and others may go through with your permanent disability. Awful. I cannot understand why people feel they have a right to be rude, discourteous, thoughtless, etc. Why?
Our walk was a highlight of my trip! I’m sorry you are learning these lessons in a difficult way. People can be cruel, true. But often there are many who are helpful. I hope you are on the mend, and I’m glad you are still getting out to walk!
You always take the high road. I’m glad you decided to take an informative approach. I’m sure there are people from all over the exercise spectrum who can use your encouragement and expertise. Thank you for sharing!
I know there must be others out there like me who are not exercise people. But, even those of us who never get that endorphin rush can benefit from regular movement. Thanks for encouraging in return.
I’m a big fan of regular movement–whatever that is to the person concerned–and for all the same reasons that you mention. I’ve really enjoyed your series broadening our concept of fitness and removing it’s bias.
Even small movements can make a difference. I am blessed to have the assistance of others, but when my personal care needs aren’t met exercise is the first activity to be cut from my life. Thanks for the encouragement!
Yes! Do what you can with what ya got : ) Keep on educating, please.
I will do my best! Keep moving what ya got! 😉