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  • Writer's pictureRiley Stephens

Exercise and Disability

Exercise is important for all people, including those with a disability, to be doing regularly for not only their physical health but also their mental health as well. However, for many getting started with exercise can be daunting and quite an overwhelming task. But for those who are able to stick at it, the benefits make all the effort in getting started worth it.


Exercise has been defined as a “magic pill” that has proven benefits for both those who are

considered “healthy” but also those with a disability (1).


So, what are the benefits:

- Physical benefits: Exercise helps in improving our stamina, reducing fatigue and keeping our muscles and bones strong.

- Mental/Emotional benefits: When we exercise our brain releases endorphins or “feel good” hormones, these can lift your mood, increase motivation and ease the feelings of depression and anxiety.

- Social benefits: joining group exercise classes or exercising in a group is a great way to work on your health while meeting new people and integrating yourself more into you

community.

- Maintaining independence: Exercise aids in maintaining your independence and freedom of choice allowing you to have a better quality of life.

- Reducing pain levels: Exercise can cause an anti-inflammatory effect in the body reducing joint swelling and reducing pain levels you may be experiencing.


“But what if I think I cannot exercise due to my disability?”

Exercise can take many different forms and does not only have to be like those you might see on the internet, in the gym or on social media. There are hundreds of different exercises one can do and most of them are able to be modified or have special equipment available to allow those with a disability to exercise, no matter your current function, fitness or skill level. Exercises can even be modified to be appropriate for you even if you are in a wheelchair.


“But I do not want to get a gym membership/go to a gym”

Exercise does not mean you have to be working out in the gym. Every person is unique and will enjoy different forms of exercise better than other and what is seen as how exercise is traditionally completed might not be right for you and your current function or goals. Exercise can be just as easily completed and just as beneficial at home with the use of your own body weight or through joining group classes such as dancing groups or water aerobics. It all comes down to your own goals and how you think you can best get started with regular exercise.


Who can I go to for support to get started?

If you need/want further support with getting started with exercise whether you have a disability or not would be seeing your GP and getting a referral to an exercise professional such as an Exercise Physiologist.


Exercise Physiologist’s are experts in exercise prescription for a vast range of conditions and the use of exercise to better manage both your condition but also work towards your own personal goals. Exercise physiologist have the expert knowledge and experience to modify and adapt exercises to your personal circumstances and functional capacity.



References:

Pedersen, B. K., & Saltin, B. (2015). Exercise as medicine–evidence for prescribing exercise as therapy in 26 different chronic diseases. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 25, 1-72.

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