Exercise is great for all of us, whether we are disabled or not.  It gets our hearts racing, improves our mood, and even helps us sleep.  Exercise is generally defined as any activity outside of the normal daily routine, with the purpose of improving overall health and wellbeing, both physically and mentally, for those of us who engage in it.. Regular exercise is known to have significant health benefits including reducing the risks of:

  • 1. Coronary heart disease
  • 2. High blood pressure
  • 1. Colon cancer
  • 4. Diabetes

Although the physical benefits of exercise are readily known the impact on mental health is often overlooked. The endorphins released during exercise have been proven to reduce symptoms related to anxiety and depression. Therefore it can be said that exercise for all, leads to general feelings of well-being.

Why fitness matters

It’s important to maintain your fitness as much as possible – you can start slowly and build up over time.

Exercise for disabled people is even more important than for those without a disability.  Why? Well, did you know that conditions such as diabetes and obesity have been proven to be up to 66% more likely in disabled people than their non-disabled peers? It’s particularly important for those of us who are disabled to get moving on a regular basis if we want to live long, healthy and enjoyable lives.

And, let’s be honest, it’s a bit more difficult to get your body moving and heart racing if you are sitting down all day and living a relatively sedentary lifestyle!  If that sounds like you, then your risk of related coronary, digestive and respiratory diseases is likely to be significantly greater than a similar person of the same age without an impairment.

But, it’s not all about the important physical aspect of exercise for disabled people; it’s important to look after our own mental health, too.  With a lack of accessible transport, attractions and pubs and clubs, it’s no secret that disabled people can find it difficult to meet and connect with others, and might even be anxious at the thought.  Exercise is a great natural medicine for this, and can be used to:

  • 1. Reduce anxiety
  • 2. Reduce feelings of stress
  • 3. Encourage clearer thinking
  • 4. Bring about a greater sense of calm
  • 5. Increase self-esteem
  • 6. Reduce risks of depression
  • 7. Improve sleep

How to start an exercise regime

For starters, it’s important that you let your doctor, physiotherapist or health care provider, as well as your support team know that you have plans to start a regular exercise pattern. Most likely, they’ll be very supportive of your efforts, but he or she will talk to you about finding ways to exercise which will suit your individual needs and disability. You can also talk to your family and friends so that they can cheer you on as you get active – maybe they’ll even join you!

There are many forms of exercise that you can try, but they can generally be broken down into three categories: cardiovascular exercise, strength training and flexibility exercises.

Cardiovascular exercise, which includes jogging and swimming, improves the overall well-being of your heart, blood flow and lungs. Strength training is exactly as it sounds – it will build your muscles and make you stronger, as well as improving your endurance, so you’ll be able to do things for longer. This type generally involves the lifting of weights, in some shape or form. Finally, flexibility exercises will help your body to become more limber, with a wider range of motion in the joints – yoga is a good example this type of exercise.

Remember to always talk to your doctor, physio or health care provider about how different exercises can be adjusted to suit you. For example, most yoga positions can be modified depending on your physical mobility, weight, age and medical condition. Upper body exercises can often be done from a seating position, and specialised equipment may be available such as for those who use a wheelchair.

No need for a gym membership

Exercise also doesn’t need to be working out in a gym, and different people will enjoy different activities. What is traditionally seen as exercise may not be the right fit for you. This is the time to get creative. Think about other ways you can get active such as wheelchair dancing or playing video games such as Wii Fit. Another good idea is to incorporate more activity into your everyday life such as gardening, cleaning, getting out and about on the weekends, and taking the stairs when possible.

You could also look at joining a sports team. Though it may seem a little intimidating at first, you’ll find that these organisations are very friendly and accommodating, and can help you to become more independent, meet new friends and have new experiences. If you need support to connect with these groups, get in touch with our Aruma team who can link you with contacts and point you in the right direction!

Finding support to get active

To help you achieve your exercise goals, you may also be eligible for funding through the NDIS.

As soon as you get started, you’ll begin to feel the benefits of a good exercise – and any type of exercise can help, physically, mentally and even emotionally.