Keeping Fit at Home for People with Disabilities
You’ve probably heard the sayings “a healthy body is a healthy mind,” or “a body in motion, stays in motion,” but what do they really mean?
For many people with disabilities, understanding these mantras and the positive effects that a fitness routine can have on our lives is especially important. But when I say “fitness” I don’t just mean pumping iron and getting buff (although I certainly miss weekly sessions with my personal trainer). Mental fortitude is equally, if not, more important.
Following social distancing protocols over the past couple of months has given me some time to reflect. We may not have all of our daily conveniences available to us at the moment, but what we do have is the opportunity to keep our body and mind healthy—and on a budget.
Here are a few things that have worked for me as a manual chair user. I believe that many of these activities can be adapted for people of all abilities and ages, so don’t be afraid to adjust based on your comfort level. All of these suggestions can be done from home, with little to no equipment—saving both time and money.
1. Adaptive Yoga
My wife (who is able-bodied) has been into yoga for as long as I’ve known her. For years, I had resisted it because I felt there was no way I could do half the things that she was doing. However, since being in isolation, I’ve really taken to jumping out of my chair on to the mat, and starting off slowly by doing beginner poses such as “child’s pose” and “cobra.”
Okay, so I might not be the next Master Yogi, but it’s a start. If you are a chair user that is unable to get on the floor, that’s totally fine. Here are some great poses you can do from a seated position.
2. Meditation Practices
If you’re anything like me, silent meditations just don’t cut it. I find that my mind is constantly going a mile a minute, and it’s difficult for me to sit still. If you agree, you might want to try mantra-based meditations, often referred to as transcendental meditation .
Simply put, it is the repetition of a word or phrase repeated in a calming manner to slow your thoughts and relax the body. My word of choice is “Om” which some describe as “the connection to one’s higher-self,” but if that doesn’t speak to you, you can choose a phrase that has meaning to you.
RHF shared some great guided meditations that I highly recommend on their blog last month:
- Insight Timer App
- Spotify: Guided Meditations
- Headspace App (here’s a letter from Headspace on how to approach meditation as a blind person)
- Meditation Studio (as suggested by Blind Alive)
- ASL Guided Meditation
3. Going for Walks
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes it’s the easiest one to forget because it’s so simple and low-impact. Even though we have to maintain social distancing at present, it doesn’t mean you can’t go for a walk (or roll) around the house or outskirts of your property. When I do this with my wife, I actually get out of my chair and use a walker to walk down the VERY long hallways of our condo complex. I find that using my walker actually gets my heart-rate going much faster than using my chair, as I have to engage my core and arms to hold me up while moving. By the time I finish a whole or half-circuit around my building, I’m exhausted…but boy does it feel good!
4. Strength Training with Body Weight & Everyday Items
Since many of us have been relatively sedentary for quite some time, it’s no surprise that online stores are constantly out of stock of free weights and fitness equipment. However, I’ve discovered that you don’t need a whole gym setup at home to get similar benefits and results.
Do you have a floor? Do you have a towel? If you are able, getting on the floor and either wrapping a towel around a partner’s waist or fixed item of furniture (like a heavy chair or stool) and holding it on to either end is a great way to do assisted crunches. I do this exercise with resistance bands (very inexpensive and can be found almost anywhere) but a towel will work just fine.
If you don’t have free weights, curling or lifting items like bottles of laundry soap is an option. Some trainers have even found fun and creative ways to workout with toilet paper. Ooh, THAT must be why everyone was hoarding—haha!
No matter how you decide to stay active during these times, strength is on a sliding scale; it’s all based on your own abilities and comfort levels. Be kind to yourself (both mentally and physically) and remember also to give your body a break; in the words of Canadian icons Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod, ”Keep fit and have fun!”