Staying active when you have a disability can be tricky; for those with limited mobility, finding an activity that’s fun but doesn’t hinge on a wide range of motion can sometimes be difficult. For those who have only recently been diagnosed with a disability, it may be hard to think about moving differently due to self-esteem issues or painful physical therapy, especially if you have issues with your knees or hips.
Yet staying active and involved in sports and exercise can be hugely beneficial to individuals who are living with a disability. Not only are activities like bicycling great for physical health--blood circulation, balance, motor skills, and stronger muscles--it can do wonders for mental and emotional health as well. It’s also a great way to get social, which can have a profound effect on self-esteem and confidence.
If you’ve been diagnosed with a disability but are finding it difficult to get active, here are a few tips on how you might get started.
Get your family involved
When something is hard, sometimes it helps to do it with the people you love. Consider asking a close friend, your spouse, or your child to engage in a sport or activity with you once or twice a week. Not only will it help you stay active, it’s a chance to spend quality time with the people you care about the most. One easy way to do this is to create a home gym where you can workout in comfort, on your own time. For more tips on how to do this without breaking the bank, read on here.
Get a service dog
Animals are a great ice-breaker and they’re wonderful at motivating, so if you’re thinking about getting out of the house for a workout in the park, take your pet along with you. If you don’t have one, think about the benefits of a service dog. These animals are specially trained to bring comfort and companionship when individuals with any sort of disability need it the most, and they’re great at helping you get moving even when you’re tired or anxious. Not only that, they’ll get you walking, which is a great low-impact exercise for building up strength in your legs.
Exercise during your downtime
We all have periods during the day when we can multitask a bit; when we’re watching television, for instance, or talking on the phone. When you find yourself able to stand for several minutes at a time, make the best use of those moments and do some easy exercises that will build up strength in your ankles. Many people don’t realize how much their knee and hip pain is actually caused by ankle issues, but when these joints don’t move the way they’re supposed to, they affect everything above them. You can do simple rocking squats or try rolling a tennis ball with your bare foot to strengthen your ankles; click here for more info.
Join a club
Thinking about starting a new sport or activity can be daunting or even overwhelming, but if you try it with a group of people who know what you’re going through, it may be a bit easier. Consider joining a sports team or workout group--or start your own in your community--because there’s always strength in numbers. Contact your local YMCA to find out what sort of services and clubs they offer to individuals with disabilities, or look online to see if there’s a workout group near you. Tennis (perhaps played with a partner, so there’s less running involved), swimming, yoga, and bicycling are all great sports for people who are suffering from knee and hip pain.
Be a leader
If you don’t feel comfortable taking on a sport just yet, consider joining a team as a coach or assistant. Having a role in an active group will help you stay social and will motivate you to get stronger, thereby boosting your self esteem, your confidence, and your ability to take on new challenges.
Remember that staying active with a disability is important, but not at the risk of your health or safety. Talk to your doctor before beginning any new regimen or sport and make sure it’s right for you, and practice self-care everyday so that you’ll feel good no matter what your workout routine is like.
By: Jackie Waters