Exercise is a crucial aspect of maintaining overall health and wellness. For individuals with disabilities, it holds even more significance. Regular exercise for disabled adults can improve physical health, mental well-being, and enhanced independence.
Engaging in physical activity can positively affect mental health, such as alleviating symptoms of depression and anxiety. Additionally, for individuals with disabilities, participating in physical activity can enhance their ability to carry out daily living tasks and promote independence.
It’s important to note that any level of physical activity that increases your heart rate can benefit your overall well-being. Remember, even a tiny amount of activity is preferable to none. It is vital to learn its benefits and know what exercises you can do in a wheelchair.
Understanding Disabilities and Exercise Disabilities
It is broadly categorized into mobility, sensory, and cognitive disabilities. Each type of disability can impact exercise routines differently. For instance, exercises for disabled legs may require adaptive equipment or assistive technologies. With science making strides daily, we find ourselves surrounded by many assistive techniques.
Assistive technologies encompass various tools and devices to support individuals with multiple disabilities. Some examples of these technologies include mobility aids like wheelchairs, advanced walkers, support canes, improved crutches, prosthetic devices etc, which enhance movement and independence.
The ease of movement for physical disabilities in the workplace or outside their homes is vital to keep them active. Physical modifications in the built environment, such as ramps, grab bars, and wider doorways, ensure accessibility to buildings, businesses, and workplaces.
Lastly, lightweight and high-performance mobility devices are designed to enable individuals with disabilities to engage in sports and maintain an active lifestyle.
Professional guidance from physical therapists or trainers experienced in working with disabled clients can be invaluable. They can create a routine and check your form to ensure you get a comprehensive benefit from your regime. They would also know the right target muscles to help your mobility. The key is consistency like sticking to 9 exercises per workout four days a week can help you gain the confidence to do more.
Tailoring Exercise Programs for Different Disabilities.
When it comes to disability exercises, one size does not fit all. For mobility disabilities, wheelchair exercises, seated workouts, and water-based activities can be beneficial. For individuals with sensory disabilities, such as visual or hearing impairments, exercises can be adapted to their needs. For those with cognitive disabilities, exercises focusing on enhancing cognitive functions and promoting overall well-being can be beneficial.
Here are a few suggestions for disability exercises that disabled individuals can repeat as per convenience and ability.
1. Sit to stand
Good if you want to increase lower body strength and stability through the core.
Ideal for: Those who have lower body control or are working on strengthening their standing ability
Method: Sit at the front of a chair with feet flat on the floor. Lean forward, use your legs to stand up, and then sit back down slowly.
Modifications: If you can’t do it without the assistance of your arms, place your hands on the knees to push you up. If your limbs are weak, you can use support. You can do this into a walker with different supports and knee blocks if needed. Some might need extra support from a caregiver. Watch videos for ideas
Health Benefits: Increase circulation, helps to build stamina for standing, builds strength to transition into walking.
2. Seated tricep dips
This exercise will strengthen the triceps and the front of your shoulders. Particularly useful if you transfer from a wheelchair.
Ideal for: Those who have good strength in their upper body or need to build more strength.
Method: Assume a seated position and position your hands on the armrests of your wheelchair or any chair you are using. Ensure that your hands are directly aligned beneath your shoulders.
Gradually lift yourself by pushing up until your arms are completely straightened, then gradually descend back down until you are seated in a fully supported position once again. These can be done 3 sets of 10 or done for extended periods of time building up to 2 minutes.
Health benefits: Pressure reliefs to ensure no pressure sores form (2 minute suspension recommended)
3. Walking and assisted walking
Perfect for those who need to practice walking.
Ideal for: Those who have limited lower body control and trying to increase strength and stability.
Method: Start with setting up equipment and putting on any orthotics needed for standing and walking ie AFO, KAFO, Walker, ankle supports, electrodes ect. Some people also may need a caregiver or physical therapist to ensure safety.
Sit at the edge of a mat or chair and stand into the walker ensuring balance and stability for a few second up to a minute before walking. While walking take equal strides with each leg and make sure weight is going through the legs and not your arms on the walker. Keep your head high and shoulders back with each stride. Make sure you have enough energy and stability to get back to where you started.
Changes: It can be done with help, crutches or even a companion until little improvements are made, at which point the assistance can be reduced a bit.
4. Seated Stretching of arms and neck
This exercise is good for when you want to stretch out the upper body and get blood flowing after stagnant seating.
Ideal for: Those who are confined to a wheelchair and use their arms and upper body a lot.
- Neck: Begin with gentle neck rotations in a circle 10 times clockwise and then 10 times counterclockwise. Next look into your right armpit and take your right hand to add gentle pressure to stretch your neck further toward the armpit – hold for 30 seconds and then repeat on the opposite side. Do three sets of these.
- Arms: Reach your right arm across your body toward the left arm, use the left forearm to add pressure pushing the right arm across and into the body – hold for 30 seconds.. The stretch should be felt in the shoulder and neck. Repeat on the opposite side. Do 3 sets on each arm.
Modifications: Only stretch as far as you can; the more you do the stretches the better your range of motion will become. Stretch gently when there is pain; pain should decrease after several days of stretching. Don’t let pain stop you from stretching just listen to your body and be gentle.
Health Benefits: Keeps muscle relaxed which decreases risk of injury, helps joints move through full range of motion, enables muscles to work more effectively and improves one’s ability to do daily activities.
5. Back exercises – dorsal raises and seated back extensions
Abdominal exercises are to be balanced with an exercise that will work the lower back muscles.
Dorsal Raises are Ideal for: Those who are comfortable getting onto and back from the floor.
Method: Begin by lying face down on the floor. Position your fingertips at your temples and extend your elbows outwards, creating a wide arm stance. Lift your head, shoulders, and thighs off the floor simultaneously. As you lower yourself back down, maintain slight tension by avoiding complete relaxation and keeping your arms from touching the floor.
Seated back extension is ideal for: Those who use a wheelchair and can’t get down onto the floor.
Method for seated back extension: While seated in your wheelchair or any other stable platform, lean forward from the waist until your upper body is facing downwards towards the floor. From this bent position, gradually extend your head and back to return to an upright posture, and then repeat the movement.
Changes: If you are unable to bring yourself back up to an upright position, you can use your hands to press on your thighs for support.
6. Reverse flys with a resistance band
Strengthen your upper back muscles and assist with pulling actions.
Ideal for: Those who have some grip strength and control over their upper body.
Method: While seated, grasp a resistance band in both hands, leaving some slack between them. Extend your arms straight out in front of you. Keep your arms fixed at the elbows and gradually spread them backward like spreading your wings. Maintain control as you slowly bring your arms back to the starting position by moving them forward.
Changes: Change the amount of slack or tension between the hands, you can modify the difficulty of the exercise.
Inclusive Fitness Facilities and Resources
Inclusive fitness facilities and gyms equipped with accessible equipment and trained staff are becoming more prevalent. Community-based programs and organizations also promote exercise for disabled individuals. Online resources, mobile applications, and fitness-tracking devices designed specifically for disabled individuals can also be helpful tools.
Apps like Assistive Touch provide a simple and easy-to-use interface that allows people with physical disabilities to control their devices using just their fingers. Finding accessible facilities can often be challenging in the urban environment. Wheelmate is an app to help you out.
In particular, this app assists individuals in locating accessible parking and bathrooms when they’re on the move. These are handy for disabled parents or people with physical disabilities in the workplace.
The importance of exercise for disabled individuals cannot be overstated. It’s crucial to explore exercise options based on specific disabilities and consult professionals for personalized guidance. With the increasing inclusivity and accessibility of fitness facilities and resources, everyone can embark on their fitness journey. Remember, a typical routine might include 9 exercises per workout, tailored to individual needs and abilities.
Despite the challenges that physical disabilities in the workplace may present, it’s important to remember that exercise can be a powerful tool for maintaining health and promoting independence. So, whether you’re looking for exercises for disabled legs or wondering what exercises you can do in a wheelchair, there are options available to support your fitness journey.
Common Concerns and FAQs
1. Is exercise safe for individuals with disabilities?
Yes, but consulting with healthcare professionals before starting an exercise program is essential. For wheelchair users, there are a variety of exercises for the disabled in wheelchairs that target various muscle groups. Wheelchair sports and activities can also promote cardiovascular fitness.
2. What types of exercises are suitable for wheelchair users?
- Arm Raises- since being in a wheelchair requires the constant use of your arms, you need to perform an exercise that targets this body part.
- Side Twists to strengthen your core.
- Medicine Ball Criss-Cross for core strength, abs and arm muscles.
- Sitting Bicycle Crunches for your abs and obliques.
3. Are there financial resources available to support disabled individuals in accessing exercise programs?
Yes, there are potential funding sources, grants, or scholarships dedicated to promoting fitness for disabled individuals.
4. How can individuals with visual impairments engage in exercise?
Low-impact aerobics or exercise equipment, such as a stationary bike, treadmill etc., can assist with cardiovascular workouts. For muscle definition, one can try using weights that can be hand held, bands, resistance equipment, and body balls. Swimming under proper supervision is also great.