Exercise provides a host of benefits. It can increase strength and stamina, improve flexibility, reduce pain, help with weight loss, boost mood, and ease symptoms of depression. Even if a disability limits your mobility, you can still reap the benefits of exercise by developing a program that is tailored to your individual needs and abilities.
Exercise falls into three main categories: cardiovascular, strength training, and flexibility. No matter what type of disability or physical limitations you have, you can find ways to incorporate all of them into your fitness routine.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous intensity cardiovascular exercise (or a combination of the two), with each workout lasting at least 10 minutes. You should also participate in at least two sessions per week of moderate or high intensity strength training exercises. If your disability makes you unable to meet these guidelines, do as much as you can.
Before you begin exercising, you should discuss it with your doctor or physical therapist. Ask how much exercise you can safely do every day and every week, what types of exercise you should do, what types of activities you should avoid, and whether you should adjust the times that you take any medications. Your doctor or physical therapist may be able to recommend a program, gym, or trainer specifically for someone with your condition.
Many people are self-conscious about their disabilities, but you shouldn’t let that stop you from exercising. Instead of focusing on things you can’t do, look for fun activities that you can. Congratulate yourself on your efforts, and seek support and encouragement from family and friends.
When you begin an exercise routine, start slowly with an activity you enjoy and gradually build up your endurance. Plan a specific time for exercise, and stick to your schedule. It will take about a month for exercising to become a habit. If you are unable to keep up with your schedule, don’t get discouraged; just start again.
If a disability makes you unable to use certain muscles, focus on exercising the muscles that you can control. Your doctor or physical therapist can recommend activities and techniques that you can try at a gym or at home.
If you are exercising in a wheelchair, keep your knees at a 90-degree angle. Sit up tall and use your abs to maintain good posture. Many exercises can be done in a wheelchair. Look for basketball, track and field, volleyball, weight lifting, or aerobics programs designed for people who use wheelchairs. You can also work with weights and resistance bands or play video games that incorporate physical activity. Water aerobics classes are another popular choice for people who use wheelchairs.
Warm up and stretch before exercising, and stretch and cool down at the end of your workout. Wear comfortable clothing, and drink plenty of water. To avoid injury, pay attention to your body. If you experience pain, discomfort, nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness, chest pain, an irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, or clammy hands, stop exercising.
Need a little inspiration? Check out the reality show Pushgirls. Tiphany Adams is a certified fitness trainer. Mia Schaikewitz is back in the pool, her first love, in addition to adaptive sports. Auti Angel conducts wheelchair dancing workshops at Abilities Expos (as does Chelsie Hill), enters dance contests, and dances in at least one movie.Read More
Tami Martin, 44, who was paralyzed from the waist down following a car accident in 1999, stunned her family, friends, and future husband, Rob Dietrich, when she walked 69 feet down the aisle at their wedding at Disney World’s Wedding Pavilion. It was the first time she had walked in public in 15 years.
Martin was wearing her seatbelt at the time of the accident, but she had reclined her seat and was left with a broken back and crushed spine. She underwent 40 hours of physical therapy every week after the accident. Doctors had told her that she would never walk again, but she was determined to prove them wrong.
Martin had to lose weight as part of her recovery process. She managed to shed 192 pounds while she was wheelchair-bound through a surgical procedure, better nutrition, and exercising, which included zumba classes, scuba diving, and dancing, as well as support from her fiancé.
Prior to the wedding, Martin had undergone three weeks of intense physical therapy, in which she had stood up and taken a few steps. None of her physical therapists was available on the day of the wedding. She decided shortly before the ceremony that she would walk all the way down the aisle. Martin tucked a walker under her wedding gown to help her as she made her way to her future husband.
Martin has even bigger goals in mind. She hopes to start a family, walk longer distances without assistance, and possibly become a motivational speaker.
Dustin Shillcox was paralyzed from the chest down in a car accident in 2010 and was told he would never walk again. He is now using a pacemaker-like device that is bringing him closer to his goal of walking.
Shillcox received an epidural stimulator implant from the University of Louisville’s Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center in January 2013. A box a little smaller than an iPhone was implanted in his stomach with a wire running from the box to his spinal cord.
When the system is engaged, the box sends electrical stimulation to his spine, which enables him to move certain muscles. He can only stand while holding onto something and cannot balance well, but he is hopeful that with further medical advances and more physical therapy he will continue to make progress.
Neuroworx, where Shillcox receives physical therapy, and the University of Louisville’s Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center are affiliated with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation that supports research to find a cure for spinal cord injuries.
In June, the Food and Drug Administration approved the ReWalk system, which consists of motorized braces that are controlled by a wearable computer. The technology enables paraplegics to stand up, sit down, and walk without assistance. The system can be purchased for home use. Similar devices have been used at rehabilitation centers across the United States.Read More
New York City has agreed to improve the way that it accommodates people with disabilities in its emergency preparedness plans.
A class-action lawsuit was filed in 2011 on behalf of New York’s estimated 900,000 disabled residents after Tropical Storm Irene revealed that the city had inadequate plans to shelter, transport, and evacuate residents with disabilities. The problems were even more serious after Hurricane Sandy, which caused widespread flooding and lengthy power outages and left many residents stranded in high-rise buildings.
A judge ruled last November that the city was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act because it did not have adequate plans to help disabled residents in emergency situations. He said the shortcomings were not the result of intentional discrimination, but rather “benign neglect.” He directed the parties involved to work together to come up with solutions.
The mayor’s office, lawyers, and representatives of first responders were able to reach a settlement with the two firms representing the plaintiffs. City officials hope the changes will make New York a leader in emergency preparedness and provide people with disabilities with access to essential services during emergencies.
Under the terms of the proposed agreement, which requires the judge’s approval, within three years New York will make at least 60 shelters accessible and able to shelter approximately 120,000 residents with disabilities. The city intended to make eight to 14 of the shelters accessible by mid-October and able to accommodate 10,000 to 17,000 people. That is more space than was required after either Irene or Sandy.
The city agreed to conduct rapid canvassing operations following disasters that significantly affect more than 5,000 households in 48 hours. City personnel and volunteers will conduct door-to-door surveys to identify critical needs, such as food, water, power, medical care, and evacuation.
The city will also create a task force that will include Fire Department representatives to address how to evacuate disabled residents from high-rise buildings if elevators cannot function due to power outages.
At the 2013 Abilities Expo in Los Angeles, we were privileged to speak with the head of disaster planning for the disabled in Los Angeles. That city had already designated one of the halls of the convention center as reserved for disabled evacuees. He also described the issues they were still wrestling with in their evacuation planning. So it appears that large cities have unique issues relative to disaster plans for the disabled. HDS MEDALLION salutes these efforts.Read More
In England, the space reserved on a transit bus is under fire after a woman with a baby buggy was able to take the spot and leave a wheelchair user behind. Appeal judges sided with the woman and said a “mother with a baby buggy was within her rights” to occupy a bus wheelchair bay. This decision has outraged disabled people around the world, but particularly in England where the ruling was passed down.
The man left behind, Doug Paulley, has enlisted the help of state-funded Equality and Human Rights Commission that stated: “This judgment means a wheelchair user has no effective legal rights if unable to gain access to a bus because a traveler blocks the designated wheelchair space”.
The issue became a legal case after Paulley was told he could not board a bus after a woman refused to move her buggy and make room. A judge at Leeds County Court ruled the bus company, FirstGroup, was in breach if it’s duty under the Equality Act of 2010 to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people, and awarded 5,500 pounds damaged to Mr. Paulley.
However, one of the appeal judges said this decision suggested the needs of wheelchair users “trumped” all other considerations. Lord Justice Lewinson, sitting with Lady Justice Arden and Lord Justice Underhill, said there was no law which says bus companies must force selfish passengers to make space for a wheelchair. They suggested wheelchair users take their case to Parliament for consideration.
While the justices agreed that common decency would expect other passengers to move for a wheelchair user, they said that by law the needs of a wheelchair user do not trump all other considerations.
Lord Justice Lewinson said the case was “not about whether non-wheelchair users should move out to accommodate a passenger in a wheelchair. Of course they should if possible”. Lady Justice Arden added that drivers should instead be taught to pile pressure on selfish passengers.
Paulley, who intends to push his case to the Supreme Court said, “It is a question of not only knowing whether you are going to be able to get on a bus but whether there is going to be some conflict. Inter-personal conflict is not very pleasant. It is one of the many stresses of getting around in a wheelchair”.
Wheelchairs users in England are already hindered by a public transport system that is still widely inaccessible and unpredictable, often leaving disabled people facing long delays and extended travel times.
This is the time of year when people are busy sharing their gift wish lists. Jewelry, clothes and tech gadgets often top the list of most popular gift ideas, but in Madison County, AL 60 volunteers have committed to building 20 wheelchair ramps for homebound residents.
The project is part of CASA (Care Assurance Systems for the Aging and Homebound) and though the ramps are free for the clients, each ramp can cost between $500 and $1,500 to build. But that won’t deter the volunteers who are determined to finish the job by Christmas.
“They’ll make it happen, that’s how committed they are to this program,” CASA worker Ann Anderson to AL.com. “The volunteers always say it’s the greatest joy when the client comes out in their wheelchair and their eyes light up when they see the ramp”.
The volunteers donate their time and skill, some taking leave from work, to construct wheelchair ramps for the elderly and disabled who are confined to their wheelchairs and can’t safely leave their homes.
Last week the volunteer group finished nine ramps and this week they have seven more scheduled. The event is known as the CASA Wheelchair Ramp Blitz and relies entirely on community donations to fund the building of each ramp.
“When you give someone a wheelchair ramp,” Anderson said, “what you’re really giving them is freedom.”
We think this is a great idea for a holiday gift and encourage everyone to help. Donations can be made online at casamadisoncty.org or mailed to: CASA, 701 Andrew Jackson Way, Huntsville, AL 35801.Read More
In 1992 the International Day of Disabled Persons was officially observed for the first time by the United Nations General Assembly in resolution 47/3. The purpose of the day is to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.
It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political social, economic and cultural life.
The theme for 2014 is Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology. The theme focuses on the fact that today there are over 1 billion people living in the world with some form of disability. Disability is associated with 20% of global poverty, of which the majority live in developing countries. Despite being the world’s largest minority group, persons with disabilities remain largely unnoticed by the mainstream media.
The technology theme for 2014 coincides with the launching of the new development framework of sustainable development goals. Three sub-themes were also chosen for the event:
- Disability-Inclusive Sustainable Development Goals
- Disaster Risk Reduction and Emergency Responses
- Creating Enabling Work Environments
At HDS MEDALLION® we are proud to recognize this important day and encourage everyone to look into how they can help promote the awareness of people with disabilities.Read More