Exercise and disability: Physical activity is within your reach

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Exercise and disability: Physical activity is within your reach

You have a disability. Your doctor recommends you get more physically active. Here's help.

Perhaps you have a physical disability. Or maybe you have a chronic condition that limits your mobility. You're adjusting to your disability — but your doctor recommends you get more active.

Take the recommendation to heart. Exercise can help you manage your weight, maintain your independence and improve your quality of life. Here's help exploring your options.

Start slowly

Check with your doctor before you begin to exercise. Once you have your doctor's OK, start slowly. Begin with gentle activities, such as stretching. Gradually increase the length and intensity of your workouts. Stop exercising if you experience pain, discomfort, nausea, dizziness or shortness of breath.

Strength training

Strength training can make it easier to complete everyday tasks, which can help you maintain your independence. If you have trouble using your hands, consider wrist cuffs that secure free weights to your hands. If you have involuntary movements of your arms or legs, you may want to use strength training machines for enhanced stability when you exercise. Many cable-based strength training machines can be used from a wheelchair.

You can even build muscle strength without special equipment. Soup cans, water bottles, resistance tubing or your own body weight may work just as well as free weights or strength training machines.

If you have a condition that directly affects your muscles — such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis — your doctor may recommend specific strength training exercises or modifications to your technique.

In the water

Image of man wakeboarding
A special seat can be mounted to a wakeboard, allowing you to ride behind a boat. Side skis help keep you upright on the water.

If you need to go easy on your joints, try swimming or water aerobics. If you're feeling adventurous, check into a custom-made canoe or raft seat with padding to protect the buttocks and legs. Riding behind a boat on a specially designed wakeboard may be another option. You sit on a special seat mounted to the wakeboard, and side skis help keep you upright on the water.

Other sports

Beyond the basics, keep an open mind. Maybe you could play volleyball with a larger, softer ball or in a seated position with a lower net. Tennis can be played from a wheelchair. Golf, too. Try a modified club, gripping aid or teeing device. You can use larger balls or shorten the distance to the hole as well. Yoga poses can be adjusted to meet your needs. You might find local wheelchair teams for soccer, basketball, floor hockey, bowling or other sports.

Last Updated: 06/22/2006
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