The Importance of People with Disabilities Staying Active and How They Can Implement Physical Activities

Everyone’s health will benefit from integrating physical activity into a weekly regimen, including people with disabilities.

More than 41 percent of people with disabilities suffer from obesity. Add in the more than nine percent that are extremely obese, and the total number reaches more than 50 percent. Additionally, no matter their weight, people with disabilities are more likely to have hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes. It is clear to see that physical activity is important for everyone, and that is especially true for those with a disability.

Photo Credit: unionbsv, Pixabay

Photo Credit: unionbsv, Pixabay

Everyone’s health will benefit from integrating physical activity into a weekly regimen, including people with disabilities. Staying active is important for the whole body, including the heart, muscles, bones, and mind. It can relieve stress, improve mood, and increase self-esteem. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activities, which increase heart rate, most days of the week. People just starting out should start slow with 10 minutes, and work their way up.

The Issue

While people with disabilities are in need of regular physical activity, there are a lot of barriers they face. Everyone has a reason for not exercising, whether it is lack of time, money, or motivation. However, those reasons are multiplied in individuals with disabilities. The gym is not really an option for most people with disabilities. Even if they muster up the courage and energy to head to the gym, simply attending a class or using equipment can be a challenge.

For example, someone who is visually impaired would struggle in a class that is led by mimicking an instructor’s poses or moves. They would also struggle to work exercise equipment without assistance. Someone in a wheelchair may not be able to attend a class if the doorframe is not wide enough, and they would also struggle to use equipment without assistance.

Despite the barriers, people with disabilities all over the world are successfully finding ways to stay active outside of the gym. The activities will depend on the disability, but can include anything from walking to ballroom dancing to raking leaves. Horseback riding, rowing, and downhill skiing are also fun options. There are also wheelchair sports, including volleyball, basketball, tennis, football, and softball. Here are some ideas for home fitness equipment to help with workouts at home.  

Activity Ideas

Walking or wheeling oneself in a wheelchair are great ways to exercise, and if the weather permits, they offer a way to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. Some parks even have wheelchair accessible trails. Thanks to adaptive cycling, almost anyone can enjoy biking, including amputees, paraplegics, quadriplegics, hemiplegics, and those with sight-impairments or cerebral palsy. Handcycles are one of the most popular choices for individuals with lower-limb mobility impairments. They are “easy to get in and out of and have a very short learning curve for new riders,” says Disabled Sports USA.

Swimming is another great option. The water can support one’s body while also providing resistance to work against to build strength and stamina, so it is a good option for those with physical disabilities. Also, the sense of freedom and floating is relaxing. Many public pools are accessible for people with a range of disabilities, and some offer special physiotherapy sessions. In fact, because of new additions to the Americans with Disabilities Act, most public swimming pools, wading pools, and spas must be accessible to people with disabilities.

A trick for helping people with disabilities to stay active is using creativity. One man with leg mobility issues figured out how to strap his legs into rings and do pushups, while another man who is paraplegic can do pushups off the side of his bed. Talk to a doctor about the types and amounts of physical activity that are right for an individual’s specific needs and abilities. Speaking with a trained exercise professional as well, if possible. Everyone, including people with disabilities, can enjoy exercise and reap its many benefits.

Kevin R Foote

marketing exec | digital evangelist | trend spotter | outdoor enthusiast | x-Google Kevin Foote is an independent advisor and interim executive for private equity & venture capital firms, investors and their portfolio companies. His focus – rapid growth and capital optimization through the transformation of marketing and sales in the face of digital adoption and the changing customer-corporation dynamic. He and his clients expect rapid execution and results. Kevin's career in marketing, advertising, and strategic planning have nurtured his passion for understanding basic human truths and how individuals' beliefs, perceptions, and preferences are formed. He is focused on forging deep relationships and creating partnerships to unlock big ideas and activate brands through the innovative use of digital marketing and technologies. His blog, The Blurred, explores the overlap of our digital and physical lives. In his recent role at Google, Kevin had the privilege of working closely with the leadership of the world's leading creative and media agencies as a digital marketing evangelist. Prior, Kevin served as the Managing Director of Marketing at United Airlines Mileage Plus, the worlds largest frequent flyer program. However, his roots are deep in the digital domain, having worked at several agencies, including Leo Burnett and Digitas, for over a decade. At Digitas, Kevin was the Group Director of Strategy in the Midwest and Global Account Director on major accounts. He has had the privilege of working with great brands including Crate&Barrell, Purina, Energizer, Whirlpool, KitchenAid, P&G, and Microsoft. His career began in strategy consulting, working at both Braxton Associates (Deloitte Consulting) and Parthenon Group. He received his MBA from Kellogg and holds undergraduate degrees from MIT.