How to exercise with limited mobility

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Exercising is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. No  matter your age, mobility or health status there is likely an approach you can take to receive the benefits that come with exercise. Of course, depending on your mobility, certain exercises will be easier than others but taking the time to get active can be extremely rewarding.

Exercise has been shown to relieve stress and anxiety, fight depression and boost your self-esteem and overall outlook on life. If you live with limited mobility or disability you will likely face some challenges when it comes to exercise but by using a creative approach and new techniques, these challenges can be overcome. Here’s how you can exercise and enjoy its benefits if you live with limited mobility or disability.

The 3 types of exercise

 The important thing to keep in mind is that any type of exercise can provide health benefits. If you live with disability, it can be easy to assume that you won’t be able to complete an effective exercise routine, however this is not the case! Even with limited mobility, it’s likely that you will be able to incorporate the 3 types of exercise into a routine.

  • Cardiovascular exercises

These types of exercises aim to raise your heart rate and increase your stamina. Most commonly, these exercises include running, walking or swimming, however even if you’re in a wheelchair, there are ways to achieve cardiovascular exercises.

Simple exercises like air punching can raise your heart rate. These exercises are effective as you can add weights as you progress. You can even incorporate these exercises into video games on a system like a Nintendo Wii. Exercising in water can also help those with mobility issues as it reduces muscle and joint discomfort and many aquatic centres have pool therapy programs with wheelchair access.

  • Strength exercises

These exercises involve the use of weights or resistance bands to train and build muscles. This can help build strength, improve balance and build bone mass. If you live with disability in your lower body, you can focus on strength exercises for your arms, shoulders and chest. Alternatively, issues with upper body mobility will mean you can work on your legs.

Strength exercises are relatively simple from a seated position. You can perform bicep curls or shoulder presses with dumbbells and should aim for 2 – 3 sets of 8 – 12 repetitions.

  • Flexibility exercises

Flexibility is important for reducing pain and stiffness as well as preventing injury and increasing your range of motion. Flexibility exercises are carried out through activities like stretches and yoga. Stretches can also help prevent further muscle atrophy.

Chair yoga is ideal for those who live with disability and need to do flexibility exercises. Yoga and Tai Chi can be adapted for wheelchair users and will help improve strength and flexibility as well as ease muscle pain.

The Routine

Before you begin to develop an exercise routine, it’s important you get medical clearance from your doctor or health care provider. If you need help, support or ideas, you can find a local, experienced care worker on the Better Caring platform. This will help ensure you are exercising at a safe rate with appropriate activities. A support worker can also help motivate you, something everyone needs from time to time.

Once you get clearance you can begin developing a routine. Find an activity that is comfortable and enjoyable for you and start out slow, with goals that are easily achievable. Getting your body used to certain exercises at a manageable rate is important for your physical health as well as your confidence.

Your routine should become something you do every day. Finding a time that suits you best is important. Maybe you enjoy exercising in the morning or perhaps you have more time later in the day. Once you start forming the routine, add more and more exercises to keep your mind and body engaged. If you’re struggling to find activities appropriate for a wheelchair, you can find helpful guides online.

Sometimes life can get in the way and you may miss days or even weeks of exercise. Don’t be discouraged by this, simply return to your routine and complete what’s comfortable, you will likely find you will improve quicker than last time. It can take around a month for a new habit to form so you should aim to achieve weekly goals and take note of the positive impacts you receive from exercising.

While exercising, it is of the utmost importance that you remain safe. If you experience any form of pain or discomfort, you should stop exercising and try smaller weights or shorter sessions. It might feel like progress is slow, but receiving an injury will only make it slower. If a body part is injured, you should avoid exercising it while it heals, instead focusing on other parts of your body.

It’s also important to warm up and stretch with light exercises before your main routine, and again at the end. Staying hydrated and wearing appropriate clothing is also key.

 If you experience limited mobility or live with disability you will likely face some challenges when it comes to exercise. However, with a creative approach, motivation and the right support you can develop an effective routine that will offer all the benefits that come with exercise.