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Getting Creative to Stay Active While Living with a Disability

Many sports, activities, and exercises can be enjoyed by folks with all types of disabilities – physical, developmental, visual, and hearing – with just a small to moderate amount of modification. Think wheelchair basketball, or mono-skiing. Oftentimes those with disabilities can also find ways to stay active through creative means. Here are some tips for how you can break through the limitations of your disability to keep yourself fit and healthy (while also having some fun).

Get in the pool

As long as the proper precautions are taken, accessible swimming pools could be the number one place to get exercise for those with disabilities.

“Swimming is a great way to be more active, because the water can support your body as well as giving extra resistance to work against. It’s especially good for keeping the muscles in your arms, shoulders, chest and back strong, as well as developing stamina. And the sense of freedom and floating can also be a great way to unwind,” notes the UK’s NHS.

Simply put, people with some physical disabilities can find a sort of freedom in water that they can’t find on dry land, as many of the effects of gravity are mitigated in a pool. You can swim, perform specific aquatic therapy exercises, or even just move around, float, and tread water. Any of this will help you stay fit.

Don’t let a wheelchair limit you

If your particular disability means you spend time in a wheelchair, it’s important to know that there are plenty of sports that have been adapted for you. There’s wheelchair basketball, tennis, handball, volleyball, soccer, rugby, and softball.

But there are also some less-involved ways to get creative around wheelchair exercise. Some suggestions include things like chair dancing, in which you turn on some tunes and dance away. You can add weights or resistance bands to this, for a better workout. Another suggestion is arm hula hooping.

Get a dog

“The beauty of owning a dog is that their care requires exercise, which in turn makes their owners more active … playing with your dog is a great way to get cardiovascular, resistance, and aerobic exercise. Dogs are also fantastic motivators; they don’t care how well you play or how quickly you walk, so long as you join in on the fun!” says the International Center for Disability Resources.

Owning a dog is like having an exercise requirement built into your life. There are so many ways to stay active with your dog – from walking with them to playing tug-of-war. You never have to worry about holding a dog back with your pace, as your dog will “work out” at whatever pace you’re comfortable at.

For those with more severe disabilities that wish to experience more forms of outdoor activities, such as running, hiking, and backpacking, service dogs can also prove to be massively helpful.

Understand that “active” doesn’t have to mean “sport”

You don’t have to play basketball, rock climb, or use weights to stay “active” and get some solid exercise. Things that you might enjoy doing anyway can be great forms of exercise. Take gardening, for example, where “one can engage in gardening and structure it to leisure-time physical activity or focus on equally important fine/gross motor skills, flexibility, balance, and eye/hand coordination.”

Outdoor activities like fishing and hunting are easily performed by those with disabilities, and though they might not represent the most strenuous of physical activities, they tout the main benefit of getting you up and out of the house, outside, and into the fresh air and sunlight.

There are a multitude of ways to get up and get active on an everyday basis if you know how to get creative. Your disability doesn’t have to be limiting, in fact it can actually open up a range of physical activities and introduce you to new active communities.

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Author: Travis White