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Exercises For People With Disabilities And Limited Mobility

Exercising does not require full mobility for you to benefit from its benefits. Even if an injury, disability, illness, or weight problem have limited your mobility, there are still a number of ways you can exercise to improve your mental state, reduce depression, relieve stress, and boost your self-esteem.

Contrary to popular belief, disabled people can engage in a workout. This procedure is, however, onerous, and should be performed under the supervision of a physician. A person with an injury or disability may find it more difficult to work out than others. The reason for this is not just a lack of physical ability. Most often, it is a lack of belief or motivation that keeps people from exercising [1].

A person with a disability or limited mobility falls under the following categories:

  • Significant difficulty walking or climbing stairs
  • Hearing difficulty or deafness
  • Blindness or severe difficulty seeing
  • A serious impairment of concentration, memory, or decision-making abilities
  • The inability to run errands alone
  • inability to dress or bathe independently

Is It Possible To Exercise With Limited Mobility?

Remember that any form of exercise is beneficial to your health [2]. Some types of exercise are inherently more difficult for persons with mobility problems than others, but regardless of your physical condition, you should aim to incorporate three types of exercise into your daily routine:

(1) Cardiovascular exercise: These exercises increase your heart rate and endurance. These include walking, running, cycling, dancing, tennis, swimming, water aerobics, or "aqua jogging" [3]. People with mobility issues often benefit from exercising in water as it supports the body and reduces the risk of muscle or joint discomfort. It is still possible to perform cardiovascular exercise even if you are confined to a wheelchair or chair [4].

(2) Flexibility exercises: They improve your range of motion, prevent injury and reduce pain and stiffness. Some examples include yoga and stretching exercises. Even if you have limited mobility in your legs, for example, you may still benefit from stretching and flexibility exercises in order to prevent or delay further muscle atrophy [5].

(3) Strength training exercises: These exercises involve using weights or other resistance to increase muscle and bone mass, improve balance, and prevent falls. Your focus will be on upper body strength training if you have limited mobility in your legs. In the same way, if you have an injury to your shoulder, for example, you will focus on strengthening your legs and core [6].


Exercises For People With Disabilities

Important note: Getting medical clearance is the first step to exercising successfully with limited mobility, illness, or obesity. Consult your doctor, physical therapist, or other health care provider about activities appropriate for your medical condition.

I. Upper-body workout for disabled people

These workouts for disabled people focus on exercising the upper body, and anyone who is not suffering from any upper-body injuries is able to participate. These can be performed comfortably while sitting in a chair, a wheelchair, or lying on a bed [7]. You just need a resistance band. Here are some examples of exercises:

  • Chest press: Do a chest press by looping the band around the back of your chair and grasping the handles at chest level. Now, stretch the band with both hands so that your hands are straight in front of you. Return to the starting position and repeat the exercise.
  • Reverse flys: Hold the band with two hands straight out in front of you. As a bird extends its wings, stretch the band outwards and backwards. Repeat as often as you feel comfortable.
  • Biceps curls: Wrap the band around the armrest of your chair or the wheel of your wheelchair. Place one end of the band in each hand. Place one hand on your lap and stretch the band upward with the other arm. Be sure the elbows are bent and that the arm movement is upward.

II. Weight training for disabled people

Weight training exercises for building upper body strength can be performed seated. In many ways, it is similar to the workout people perform at the gym, but you will do it sitting down.The number of repetitions in a set and the amount of weight for these exercises should be determined according to your comfort level. Listed below are some exercises [8]:

  • Shoulder presses: Weights should be held in both arms with palms facing forward, at the sides of your shoulders. Repeat this movement upwards and downwards until you have completed one set.
  • Triceps extensions: Hold one dumbbell above your head with both hands. Bring your arms towards your back, behind your head. Extend as far as possible and then return to the starting position.
  • Bicep curls: These can be done using weights as well. You need to hold one dumbbell in each hand with the palms facing up and your hands stretched out in front of you. Lift the weights without raising your elbows; simply use your arms and bend your elbows.

III. Lower-body workout for disabled people

Disability affects the type and level of exercise for lower-body workouts for disabled individuals.

Note: Exercises for legs should not be performed by individuals with severe disabilities or limited mobility. Those who are mobile enough to walk may simply go for a walk since this is one of the most basic forms of exercise [9]. Here are some exercises:

  • Chair leg extension: It is an isometric exercise (contractions of a particular muscle or group of muscles) that focuses on building muscle tension without stretching the muscles. Ensure that you are seated upright, hold your armrest, and slowly lift one foot upwards. To build muscle tension, extend your leg with your foot flexed toward the shin. Slowly return your foot to rest and repeat as necessary. Repeat the process for the other foot.
  • Sit to stand: You can perform this exercise if you have some mobility and are able to stand. All you have to do is stand up and sit down as many times as you can. This exercise improves lower body strength and is suitable for individuals with limited mobility.
  • Pedal exerciser: A piece of equipment that allows cyclists to exercise their legs while sitting comfortably in a chair. You will be able to exercise your legs without putting too much pressure on them.

Exercise Safety Tips For People With Disabilities

  • Warm-up, stretch, and cool down. Warm-up with light activity such as walking, arm swinging, or shoulder rolling, followed by some light stretching (avoid deep stretches when your muscles are cold). Whether it is cardiovascular exercise, strength training, or flexibility training, it is important to cool down with some light exercise and deeper stretching after your workout [10].
  • Stop when necessary. Do not exercise if you are experiencing pain, discomfort, nausea, dizziness, light-headedness, chest pain, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, or clammy hands. The best way to avoid injury is to listen to your body. It is recommended that you limit your workouts to five to ten minutes and exercise more frequently if you continue to experience pain after 15 minutes of exercise, for example [11].
  • Do not perform activities involving an injured body part. Exercise your lower body while your upper body is healing, and vice versa. Whenever you begin exercising again after an injury has healed, use lighter weights and less resistance.
  • Stay hydrated. Your body performs best when it is adequately hydrated.
  • Dress appropriately by wearing supportive footwear and comfortable clothing that will not restrict your movement [12].

Questions To Ask Your Doctor/Physiotherapist

  • What is the maximum amount of exercise I can accomplish each day and each week?
  • What type of exercise should I perform?
  • Do I need to avoid certain exercises or activities?
  • Do I need to take medication at a specific time around my exercise routine?
  • On A Final Note...

    You can improve your health by engaging in any form of physical activity that gets your heart beating faster. Even a little bit of exercise is better than none at all. It is recommended that all adults, with or without disabilities, get at least 150 minutes of aerobic physical activity per week (2.5 hours). You can break down activities into smaller amounts, such as about 25 minutes a day. Additionally, muscle-strengthening activities, such as adapted yoga or working with resistance bands, provide health benefits.

Story first published: Tuesday, November 16, 2021, 18:04 [IST]
Read more about: disabilities exercise fitness injury