Helping a Handicapped Family Member Stay Fit

August 30, 2011

This is a guest post by Nan Gibbons.

Life in a wheelchair can be difficult. Whether you’re temporarily wheelchair bound or permanently disabled, daily activities are no longer as easy as they once were.

With the many adjustments and concerns of making your home more wheelchair friendly, finding wheelchair accessible vehicles and transportation, or caring for a loved one, it can be easy to overlook health and fitness.

Maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle can boost your overall wellness, mood and quality of life. Exercising in a wheelchair is very possible and easily attainable.

Exercising at Home
Since most gyms are not wheelchair accessible, working out at home is the best option for maintaining fitness and establishing a daily exercise routine. Depending on your city, you may have access to a wheelchair accessible gym, so it’s best to do some research.

If you aren’t in an area with an accessible gym, many websites and retail stores offer videos for wheelchair exercises. Most wheelchair workouts require resistance bands and free weights. These items are relatively inexpensive and can be found at any sporting goods supply store or at larger stores like Walmart and Target.

There are videos with wheelchair workout tips that are available on YouTube as well, if you’d rather not spend money on a DVD. Additionally, health and fitness or disability websites are a great resource for finding more tips and ways to stay active.

Wheelchair Sports
Though not for everyone, wheelchair sports are becoming increasingly popular and widespread. Sports are a fun, exciting and competitive way to stay in excellent shape.

Wheelchair sports vary in their level of intensity and span a broad range of opportunities. There are leagues for rugby, tennis, basketball—even yoga. Researching local organized wheelchair sport leagues can offer an exhilarating way to stay fit, meet new people and maintain athleticism.

Exercise Machines
If you have money to spend or are permanently chair bound, you might consider investing in a wheelchair accessible home gym. Though it can be expensive, investing in a home gym is the most reliable way to ensure life-long health and fitness. Machines can be purchased online and at limited retailers based on mobility or a specific need.

Safety First
Consult a physician before beginning any workout routine. A well-rounded workout includes stretching followed by a five- to 10-minute warm-up period to gradually increase the heart rate.

A heart rate monitor is an easy and affordable way to monitor your beats per minute and calories burned (depending on the model of monitor). Workouts should end with a five- to 10-minute “cool down” session to gradually decrease your heart rate followed by adequate stretching to eliminate soreness the following day.

Health and Fitness can continue to be a part of everyday life, despite the limitations of a wheelchair. Staying fit is fun, simple and within close reach.

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