If you have been injured or have a disability that keeps you from exercising in the way most people take for granted – there is still a lot you can do.
Mobility issues affect people who are overweight, have suffered an illness or injury, or some trauma that has resulted in the inability to move around easily or comfortably.
Exercise benefits everyone. If you are sidelined from a temporary injury or are now permanently affected, now is a good time to start bringing fitness into your life. Even if you have never been an exerciser before.
Activity does wonderful things for a persons body and mind. The chemicals that the brain emits during exercise will improve the mood and even elevate self-esteem and create optimism. Having the challenges of limited mobility doesn’t mean you need to limit your aspirations. A little bit of creativity can go a long way. Just watch how this US soldier can use a mini-trampoline to get a good cardio workout – even now after both arms and legs have been amputated.
Whether or not your mobility limitations are temporary or permanent, try working with your physiotherapist to come up with activity solutions that you can do. Over time you can continue to monitor and adapt more fitness into your life.
There is almost always something you can do. People with breathing issues like COPD have benefited from aerobic exercise. People who are too overweight to move easily can benefit from chair aerobics or using a walker to assist with walking activities. Even able-bodied persons spend a great deal of time sitting to do strength training routines at the gym.
Important Fitness Routines for Mobility
Flexibility: Being restricted in motion is quickly compounded by the shortening of muscle and ligaments. It is natural to want to immobilize the injured area, or to become inactive. This results in reducing flexibility so when you do try to exercise you can actually cause more or a different injury. Maintaining flexibility is necessary to reduce stiffness and minimize pain. Great exercises for flexibility are stretching routines and yoga. Yoga has several levels and can be done from the bed or wheel chair.
Cardiovascular: Doing exercise that exercises your heart, and will also burn calories. Another grand benefit from aerobic exercise is how it helps the body to heal. Cardio activity results in moving healthy blood supply to the muscles and the movement supports the lymphatic system to remove the waste and infection.
Water aerobics is popular and very beneficial for supporting the body in a buoyant but resistance environment. Because the body weight is supported, injury to joints and gravitational limitations are lessoned. The resistance of the water allows for an excellent workout. Persons who are confined to a wheelchair can be adapted to floatation devices that will allow for full body submersion and still benefit from the activity.
Resistance Training: Building your muscles, developing strength, and increasing bone mass, all result from a healthy strength straining routine. This does not necessarily have to involve big bulky weights. Bands, body weight, and isometric exercises will all improve strength. Work with your medical advisor to come up with a fitness routine to suit your needs.
A rounded program involving flexibility, aerobic, and strength training is usually what will be prescribed. If you are under medical care or rehabilitation then ask your doctor or physical therapist what they advise. Ask them what type of exercise will you benefit from, and be clear with them if you want to be able to increase your performance level. Just as important find out what type of activity you should avoid, and for how long. If you are on any medications there may be some that are best taken before or after certain types of exercises that you should be made aware of.
There might also be a place or person in your community that your practitioner can recommend. There are personal trainers and physiotherapists that become “specialized” in training persons with specific mobility issues to improve and increase their fitness levels.
Starting out slowly will help to prevent injury and introduce your body to something new. It also helps to build you own confidence in your abilities and become more comfortable as you create new muscle movement. New movement creates neural pathways to the brain – this is why something that starts off feeling awkward results in feeling familiar.
It’s a good idea to keep a daily journal of your fitness activities. For one, you can watch as you improve your abilities. You will be pleasantly surprised how quickly the body adapts to activity. Keeping track of this helps with your own sense of accomplishment and helps generate a more optimistic outlook. The other reason to keep track is to note how you feel. Both physically and emotionally. Keeping track will help to avoid the pit-falls of overdoing it or not doing enough.
Make your exercise fun. Use this time to listen to your favourite music or audio-books. This is YOUR time.
Exercise routines need to change a bit over time but don’t get deterred by programs that are awkward and always changing. Right now you should have something simple and easy to follow. Having too much variety in the beginning will not be helpful. Variety is good for when you start to get bored.
Exercise Equipment for Persons with Mobility Needs
If you can walk but need support – there are several types of walkers to choose from. The least expensive are just frames that you lift and push ahead of you. These will not be helpful to you if you want to expand your fitness abilities. If you tire quickly but want to “push” yourself so you can increase what you are capable of today – a walker with a seat can help with this. This way you can rest for a bit on your walk. This is also a good safety feature.
Perhaps you are recovering from injury or have limited use of your legs, mini pedal exercisers are available that you can use in the home. Just set this up in front of your chair while you are watching your favourite TV show. This will help with cardio activity as well as leg strengthening.
Chair exercises are available that can be done in a regular chair or specially designed exercise chairs. Chair exercises can be done with or without weights. They include routines that will really pump up the heart to get a cardio workout. Most chair exercises can be adapted to the wheelchair as well.
If you are interested in specialized exercise equipment that can be operated from a wheelchair or regular chair the Total Body Cycle or the MagneTrainer with stand are both excellent.