Fitness Can Be Fun For People with Disabilities

Guest blog post WRITTEN BY Travis White of learnfit.org

A woman in a wheelchair playing sports.

Image via Pexels

Historically, access to physical activities for people with disabilities has been extremely limited. Think about it. For people with visual impairments, mobility issues, or mental health concerns, workout equipment, group exercise classes, and most sports aren’t even accessible, much less enjoyable. As a result, adults with disabilities are less active, making them three times more likely to suffer from heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or cancer than adults without disabilities.

Luckily, we now know exercise can be anything from dancing in your living room to tending a garden. That’s good news for everyone, especially people with disabilities. As long as your body is moving, your muscles are working, and your heart is pumping, what you’re doing counts towards the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity you’re supposed to get each week.

Even better, some of the activities that are naturally more accommodating for people with disabilities are also way more fun than walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike. And thanks to more and better adaptive equipment, the list of “disability-friendly” activities keep on growing.

1. Get wet. Water is therapeutic in a lot of ways. Usually, water-based activities are low-impact, making them easier on the joints. You also tire less quickly in the water, which means you can exercise longer. That’s why many physical therapy and rehabilitation programs regularly incorporate water activities into their routines.

For people with mobility issues, water sports offer the opportunity to move more freely. I’m not just talking about the water aerobics class at your local YMCA, either. Activities like fishing, diving, and kayaking engage your heart, mind, and muscles for a whole body workout. They are also relatively easy to modify for people with disabilities. Most of the time, no special equipment is required.

 2. Take a hike. Walking alone is great exercise, but walking around a track in a circle can get a little boring. Hiking, on the other hand, can make getting your steps in a lot more enjoyable. The sights and sounds of nature keep it interesting, and the changes in terrain and elevation challenge your muscles.

As long as you can walk and balance, you can enjoy hiking with a prosthetic or a cane without additional modification. If you use a wheelchair, some parks and recreation facilities offer all-terrain wheelchairs. As an added bonus, most hiking trails are dog friendly. So if you have a pet or use a service animal to manage a visual impairment, anxiety disorder, or other disability, hiking is a great workout for both of you.

3. Think bigger. In the past, people with disabilities have been limited when it comes to participating in more adventurous sports. But that’s no longer the case. Thanks to adaptive equipment, people with disabilities have access to almost any activity they can think of, including extreme sports like mountain biking, skiing, and skateboarding.

If it’s activity with a side of adventure you’re looking for, there are organizations all over the globe that offer the equipment you need to get your adrenaline fix. To ensure your safety, be sure to check the credentials of the facility you choose and it’s personnel. And, like anyone else, make sure you get cleared by your doctor beforehand.

The truth is, most physical fitness programs are not designed with inclusivity in mind. Nonetheless, it’s important for people with disabilities to prioritize their health and wellness and make physical fitness a part of their routine. The good news is, no matter what sport or activity you choose, the benefits of exercise are entirely worth the effort.

Travis White considers himself a foodie and an advocate of second chances and bouncing back at life. He writes about food for learnfit.org in his spare time. 

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