Not only can exercising bring you a load of important health benefits, but it can also help you manage your daily life, emotionally, mentally, and physically.
Benefits of Physical Exercise
Physically speaking, exercising can help make daily tasks much easier through physical improvement and ease of moving about.
For your mental and emotional state of mind, exercise can trigger all kinds of chemical compounds within your brain that can help you feel not only better mentally but give you emotional control and confidence.
Exercise has been proven to elevate your mood, minimize depression, decrease feelings of stress and anxiety, boost your self-esteem and confidence, and overall—make you feel great about your outlook on life!
Disabled Sports & Recreation
Physically speaking, regular exercise can help increase your endurance, alleviate certain joint pains, and prevent injury. Engaging your muscles can also build muscle and bone mass, as well as increasing your range of motion.
Regular aerobic exercise — a movement that gets your heart pumping — it is important to help you build muscle and improve the health of your cardiovascular system. The great thing about exercising is, it can be tailored to injuries, limited mobility, and physical ability.
From a social standpoint, engaging in physical activity through sports or an organized program can also help increase your social life, introducing you to others who want to move and can possibly be in the same predicament as you.
If you’re not as competitive as others—exercising on a regular basis doesn’t have to mean that you join a gym or competitive sport—you have the freedom of choosing so many different forms of activity to help keep you happy and healthy.
It is advised that all adults—including those in a wheelchair—should try and reach at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity a week, while also participating in strength exercises twice a week.
However, although they may seem like strict guidelines, the most important thing you need to do is take that first step—and start somewhere!
Let’s Take a Closer Look
Simply moving around your wheelchair — or pushing one if you are a family or friend of a loved one who has limited mobility—requires a certain amount of muscular strength. Exercising can help reduce the amount of strain—and possibly pain—in these muscle groups and areas of your body.
Regularly implementing muscle-strengthening exercises in your weekly life can help you avoid injuries and improve the ease of mobility.
Let’s split up the two different types of activities: Cardiovascular, Strengthening, and Flexibility Exercises.
Although you might connect the phrase “limited mobility” with being in a wheelchair, you still are able to move in it! These types of exercises have the purpose of getting your heart rate up and breaking a sweat if you can.
A good starting point is around 10 minutes if you’re a beginner and work your way up to 20 and more if you’re more advanced and used to exercising.
Some great examples of cardiovascular exercises include swimming, wheelchair sprinting, using a rowing machine or arm bike adapted for wheelchair use, engaging in a wheelchair sport or exercises that can be done while sitting.
These focus on strengthening your muscles and different muscle groups—with special attention to those that you use regularly and those that are not being engaged while pushing a wheelchair. In general, the chest and shoulder muscles can become very tight from overuse. However, the back muscles can generally be much weaker since they’re not involved in pushing—rather, pulling.
These strengthening exercises can get you to focus on the smaller muscles and help you get stronger so you’ll be doing your best to prevent injury.
Some great examples of strengthening exercises include pulling motion workouts like with pull-ups and rowing machines. Gym equipment that is wheelchair adaptable and resistance bands are also great tools to use.
To furthermore help you reduce the risk of injury and focus on enhancing your range of motion, flexibility exercises can come in handy to reducing pain and stiffness.
A few exercises that can help your flexibility are stretching exercises and yoga. Do what you can with what you have—these sorts of exercises can help prevent or delay further muscle atrophy.
Before You Get Started
As always, we would recommend consulting with your doctor about any activity you would like to pursue to make sure you’re where you want to be physically and doing it properly. Working with a professional trainer or physical therapist can also help you avoid injury and work your body the way you want to.
To stay as healthy and happy as possible—safety first!
Here are some tips to help you make sure you’re engaging in exercise in a safe environment and way:
- You should never feel pain! Although the famous saying “no pain, no gain” may suggest otherwise, pain normally means you’re pushing your body way past its limits. Getting an injury is not only unhealthy, but it can also set you back in your fitness and health goals—if you cannot continue with participation!
- When you first start out and if possible, try to have an instructor, caregiver, or partner present. They can help you with learning new exercises or getting through a portion of the workout that might not be possible alone.
- Make sure you’re hydrating. Regardless if you’re sweating or not, your body will be losing fluids—which will need to be replaced!
- Try, try, try again. We cannot stress this enough—especially if you’re new to the exercise world, learning a new sport or movement can be challenging for anyone! Give yourself some tough love, but always keep patience in mind when trying to tackle a new sport or physical movement. Don’t give up—even by trying and “failing”, you’re still going to be better than you were yesterday.
- Make sure you are warming up, stretching, and cooling down. This helps you prepare your body beforehand, bring it back down afterward, and stretching to avoid sore muscles for the following day.
Don’t Go It Alone!
Regardless of what your living situation is, there are so many different organizations and groups that can be wonderful resources to get connected and participate in activities, together.
If being on a team is not really your thing, you can still practice individual sports and activities while still being a part of an organization.
To help you get involved and find the right local organizations, get in touch with these groups! And, even if they aren’t the right ones for you or local to your area, they can most likely help you get in touch with some who are:
- Florida Disabled Outdoors Association
- American Association of Adapted Sports Programs
- Disabled Sports USA
- Adaptive Sports USA
- Brooks Adaptive Sports and Recreation
And so many more!
Again, you don’t have to go it alone—there are so many support systems beyond your family, friends, and doctor that can help you get involved and get moving!
Success in exercise doesn’t happen overnight. To help you find the activity that suits you best, here are a few tips to follow:
1. First and foremost, speak to your doctor. A few questions you can ask him also include:
- How often can I exercise?
- What kinds of exercises are available to me?
- Which activities should I avoid doing?
- Do I have to implement medication into my physical activity routine?
2. Begin slowly and gradually improve. Regardless if you are an ultimate beginner or just getting started again from being an elite athlete, take it slow and always pay attention to how you feel. Keep your goals in sight and create smaller building blocks to get there. The important thing here is that you’re gaining the confidence (and strength) to do more and more as you go along.
3. Implement exercise into your daily routine. It takes a few tries to turn something into a habit. However, if you keep at it, you’ll start to run through exercises and certain activities without giving it a second thought.
4. Keep it varied. It’s easy to get bored with the same band exercises every single day. Now and then change up your routine or do a different activity on certain days.
5. Don’t expect smooth sailing. Just like anything in life—something new might not be so easy to tackle. It’s normal to perhaps feel discouraged if you miss a day or week while exercising or if you’re not able to accomplish a movement the first try around. Practice makes perfect—so slowly build up your strength, skill, and momentum to move forward.
Stay Positive and Keep Moving
Instead of focusing on limited mobility and what you CAN’T do, put all that energy instead on what you CAN do.
Allow yourself to be proud of an accomplishment or of tackling a task and being successful at something you never did before—this will give you confidence and encouragement to keep moving forward.
We hope this article has helped you find a few ways to get moving!