By: Paisley Hansen, writer at the Mobility Resource
Living with a disability can be difficult, and it's not just the medical costs or care requirements that are a burden. For many people, the lack of independence can be especially hard to swallow, especially if the disability occurred suddenly. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to improve life with a disability and to gain back your independence. One great way to gain back independence is through exercise.
Exercise is not necessarily easy for anyone, but can be especially tough if you're living with a disability. Many kinds of disabilities can limit workout potential due to reduced range of motion, pain, disfigurement, confinement to a wheelchair, atrophied muscles, broken bones or other factors. This even goes beyond outward physical limitations and into metabolic and psychological disabilities. Some people struggle with chronic fatigue, muscle pains and mood disorders that can make working out seem like an insurmountable chore.
However, regardless of your situation, getting some exercise is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Short of being completely paralyzed, most disabilities still allow at least some level of fitness activity. It might not be the 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise that experts recommend for the average person, but whatever you can do will improve your physical capacity and overall health. Furthermore, it could end up still having a dramatic benefit. If you spend a great deal of your time being immobile or you can't use a significant part of your body, your metabolic requirements aren't as high, so you get more from less activity.
If you feel too fatigued to work out, it's understandable if you don't want to expend the energy you have left for something more important. However, you should be aware that forcing yourself to do even a light workout can help. Research has found that exercise actually improves energy levels in those suffering from chronic fatigue. The first step is always the hardest, but persistence wins in the end.
Of course, the nature of your disability will determine what kinds of exercise you're able to do. You'll need to take this into consideration when choosing a gym or purchasing fitness equipment. If you still have decent control of your upper body, lifting free weights is a highly recommended activity. Begin with a low weight and gradually work your way up. The more you do this, the more you tone and condition your muscles. This can dramatically improve your strength and range of motion, allowing you to be more independent in your daily life.
Lifting weights also has other benefits. It helps prevent and reverse muscular atrophying, which is associated with chronic inactivity. Furthermore, it can increase bone density. If your disability resulted from broken bones, weight training can ensure that they heal properly and help reduce the risk of additional fractures later on.
Swimming is another form of exercise that can greatly improve your independence. Since it's a low-impact activity that also allows you to float, it's ideal for people who are unable to stand. In addition, the water's temperature can reduce inflammation, resulting in lessened dependence on pain and anti-inflammatory drugs. Many people living with a disability also find physical therapy helpful, especially during the early stages. A qualified and well-trained professional will work with you to create a fitness regimen that fits your particular needs.
When considering exercise options, make sure that the you have have the right car accommodations. In order to get to the gym or the swimming pool, you may need a wheelchair van or a wheelchair ramp. These accommodations will make it easier to get to and from your work-out destinations. Also, be sure to check that the work out facilities have disability restrooms and elevators.
Gaining independence with a disability is possible. Working out a great way to help you feel better through moving your muscles and getting endorphins, no matter what kind of disability you have. Even if it’s just a light workout, the benefits will surely show you to adjust and live a healthier and more fit life.
Follow Paisley on twitter @PaisleyHansen