Yes, You Can (and Should!) Still Exercise

The benefits of exercise are wide-reaching, and well-known. But what if you’re in a wheelchair or have limited mobility due to injury or disease? Should yo…

The benefits of exercise are wide-reaching, and well-known – most doctors recommend a daily workout, preferably 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. Studies have shown that exercise prevents certain diseases, eases the symptoms of others, and can even relieve depression and improve your mental health. But what if you’re in a wheelchair or have limited mobility due to injury or disease? Should you still exercise regularly?

That is a question you should discuss with your healthcare provider, but more often that not the answer is yes – you can (and should) still exercise, even if you have limited mobility.

If you suffer from limited mobility, here are just a couple of the wide variety of activities you can choose from to get your 20 to 30 minutes a day:

Stretching Everyone should stretch before starting their exercise routine, whether they suffer from limited mobility or not. Stretching before your exercise – or as a form of exercise itself – has been shown to have many benefits, including:

*Improved range of motion for your muscles *Reduced risk of injury during exercise *Prevention of post-exercise muscle pain and soreness

Before you begin exercising, stretch all of the muscles in your upper body, including your shoulders, arms, back and neck. Just keep in mind that you should never use force while stretching, and as you stretch be sure to hold your position still – don’t bounce.

So how do you stretch? It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or a physical therapist to find out the best stretching routine for you, but here are two examples to get you started:

Upper Arm Stretch – Cross your right arm across your chest toward your left side, keeping your elbow straight. With the inside of your left elbow or your left hand, push your right arm back toward your body. You should feel the stretch in your right upper arm and shoulder. Switch arms and repeat.

Chest Stretch – Clasp your hands together behind your back, with your palms together. Keeping your elbows straight, lift your hands out and up behind you as far as possible. You should be able to feel the stretch in your shoulders and chest. For a deeper stretch, bend over at the waist, with your arms above you and elbows still straight. Let gravity pull your arms as far as possible. Slowly stand up and release your hands.

Resistance Training If your doctor feels you’re ready and able, resistance training can be one of the most convenient and appropriate exercises for individuals in a wheelchair or who suffer from limited mobility. Resistance training uses large, stretchy bands that are attached to a door handle, a pole, or even your wheelchair. Pulling the bands will work and strengthen the muscles in your arms, hands, shoulders, chest and back. Your doctor can help you to determine what level strength resistance bands you should use, and what routine is appropriate for you.

Strength Training If you are in better health and preferably if you have been involved in resistance training for some time, your doctor may recommend that you begin strength training. Strength training involves lifting free weights or dumbbells – but don’t let the lack of equipment stop you. If you don’t have access to weights, you can use cans of food or even yellow pages. Your doctor can help you determine how much weight, how many repetitions, and what form you should use when lifting.

Exercise Videos There are also many videos or DVDs available – targeted toward individuals in wheelchairs or with limited mobility – that illustrate different forms of exercise, including yoga, upper body aerobics, tai chi, and more. Ask your doctor if he or she can recommend one for you, or you can find many choices on the internet at stores such as Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Exercise is a positive, healthy way to stay fit, strong, and alert. It can increase your strength and endurance, bring up dampened spirits and alleviate depression. Talk to your doctor about the exercise options that are right for you, and get moving!

Other Tips to Help Start and Keep Your Exercise Routine:

*It’s important to develop a regular routine when you exercise – that way, it can almost become second nature. *Try to find a workout buddy. You’re less likely to skip workouts if you’re accountable to someone else.

*Eat healthy – it’s always a good idea, but exercise paired with a healthy diet has been shown to be much more effective.

*Start slow. You’re not required to be a super hero on your first workout, and in fact that could be dangerous. Just starting a routine is beneficial!

*Keep a record of your routine and milestones. Not only will this help you as you discuss your workouts with your doctor, it’s encouraging to look back on your notes and see how far you’ve come!