How to exercise with a disability?
How can exercise be beneficial to people who are equipped with prosthetic limbs?
Understanding exercise for all people.
Physical fitness exercise for people managing disabilities—including children with disabilities—can be challenging. It is not a disability which defines a person—it is the extent to which he or she is prepared to live a healthy life which may define life itself. Many of us have challenges related to physical ability. It is our ambition to help people of all ability levels. In the pages of this website you will find information written to inform and motivate people to live healthier, happier, and better functional lives. From our perspective, after initial assessment, we can help people—of all ability levels—to identify and prioritize fitness goals in effort to proactively seek a healthier, balanced, lifestyle.
Barriers to Physical Fitness Programs
We have identified many barriers to physical activity for people challenged with disabilities and disorders ranging from common self esteem issues to severe physical limitation. The argument of this purpose is not to focus specifically on injury, limitation, or disability, but, to focus on efforts to be proactive in our approach to assisting people of all abilities and disabilities. We clearly understand that the limitation of a person is based on several factors. We will discuss several of these factors below. These factors include:
- Nature of disability and limitations (Psychological, Physical/ Biological, Emotional, and Social Components)
- Emotional state
- Professional support systems available
- Medical intervention/ medications/ biological data
- Physical support systems (Prosthesis, Cane, Wheelchair, etc.)
- Access to specialized fitness programs
- Encouragement/ family support
- Personal responsibility
Analyzing Challenges and Obstacles for Disabled People in Fitness Programming
When determining the nature of a limitation, an injury, or a disability, it is important to fully research social, biological, and psychological aspects of each of our clients. While assessing many of these components may fall outside of the scope of many fitness trainers, it is very important to discuss—with appropriate professionals—and identify aspects of all applicable social, physical, and psychological components which directly affect a person’s ability to manage illness, injury, disability or disorder while taking on an exercise program. Understanding only one component could invite further injury or harm or at the least, result in an ineffective fitness program.
Better Fitness, Greatness, Even Happiness?
Is fitness exercise for disabled people any different from fitness exercise for people of average ability? The short answer is—no. In the respect that people of all fitness levels interested in better fitness and strength start with exercise which is precisely suited to their ability level and limitations. A sedentary mother of three with little or no experience in exercise would begin at a “beginner” level. Much in the same manner, a person who wears a prosthesis, as a result of a limb amputation, simply begins fitness exercise within the scope of his or her limitations as well. The only difference may be that while a sedentary mother of three, as described above, may not need to learn to use mechanical assistance for movement of activities of daily living, exercise included, but she will face adversity. My point is, while a person who is challenged by learning to correctly use and physically acclimate themselves to the use of a prosthetic limb or mechanical aid may have slightly different challenges from a person who unchallenged by a prosthesis, but, in terms of fitness training, we all start at the same place—the beginning. I am not particularly amazed by professional athletes, people who enter marathons or parachute from planes or even ski down mogul runs in Aspen. I am amazed by untrained people who take on responsibilities and challenges in the face of great adversity. I witnessed a child feed herself with her toes…she has no arms…she balanced a spoon between her toes and giggled in between spoonfuls. We all are amazingly powerful beings—if we choose to be.
Stabilizing, Strength, Flexibility, and Stress Reduction Exercise
People with disabilities can benefit from physical activity and the results of physical fitness programs similarly as people without disabilities. In fact, it is essential for people with disabilities ranging from minor to catastrophic to make the very most of their abilities. Yes, we are all individuals with differing ability levels, differing challenges, etc. However, if you are a person who can become better fit then it is your responsibility to do so. If you were in an accident and lost a limb…it is your responsibility to yourself to regain or improve your quality of life and health. There are countless benefits to physical activity, some of these include:
- Better functioning of heart, lungs, muscles and bones
- Increased flexibility, mobility, coordination, and balance
- Maintenance of ideal body composition
- Arrest of limb atrophy/ muscle hypertrophy
- Improved stress management
- Improved sense of well-being
- Social interaction/ improved self-esteem
- Practice in use of prosthesis in activity
- Strengthen awareness and advocacy of activities for people using prosthetics
Since physical activity contributes to the maintenance of better health, along with exercise and better diet, you will be building endurance, strength and energy for all your days to come. Some people fear falling, some fear being in public, others fear defeat. Yes, exercise can be tough! It is critical to accept the guidance of fitness professionals who have significant experience in training people of all ability and disability levels. While some discomfort can result as a result of activity—the rewards and positive results of responsible, proactive, well planned, exercise and physical activity far outweigh any negatives. To borrow a line from Franklin D Roosevelt, in his inaugural speech of 1933, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” We all fear something. Yet, we must all face our fears at some time or another. We are here to help you face yours.
Fitness Training for People Managing Disabilities
Yes, we all manage some level of fear, disability or “inadequacy.” Many of our inadequacies are magnified by our own insecurities. It has always been very interesting to me to see a child manage a disability as opposed to an adult managing the same disability. It seems that children don’t “beat themselves up” as much as we do. They, children, seem to just push on. If we only had faith in ourselves equal to that of childlike faith. Simple. This aside, there are many obstacles for trainers to consider and understand when planning fitness activity for people of varying ability levels. Some of these variables include:
- Environmental barriers (walkways, stairs, ramps, etc.)
- Physical energy demands
- Sensory efficiency
- Prosthesis management (adaptation)
- Mood disorder awareness
- Self awareness/ self-esteem
- Physical sensitivity
- Functionality of exercise
Power of Personal Empowerment and Support for People Challenged by Disability
Becoming healthy, stronger, and better fit isn’t just about activity—it is about embracing your power within. People who embrace personal responsibility, positive thinking, and support and love from others can accomplish great things. Yes, it is important to have help…it is equally important to realize that we all are responsible for our own happiness. Despite many challenges facing people of varying ability levels, common factors influencing success, accomplishment, and better health are found in a person’s ability to embrace both personal hope and desire. Let’s focus on what you can do—work within your limitations—and improve on each of your goals, one-at-a-time.