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Staying Active

Staying Active with Limited Mobility

Staying physically active is good for everyone because there are many health benefits. People who aren’t physically active may have a higher risk of health problems such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

If you have a disability or limited mobility it’s just as important to be as physically active as possible.

Benefits of Being Physically Active

The reasons to stay physically active when you have limited mobility are the same if your limits are only for a little while or a long time. Staying active helps you:

  • have some control over what you do
  • focus on what you can do—not on what you can’t
  • have more energy and strength to do things for yourself

Many people with limited mobility who take part in physical activity groups feel supported to stay active and healthy. They also have a chance to talk to others with similar challenges.

The mental health benefits of being physically active are that you feel better about yourself and you get out with others. Research shows that staying physically active can help with other mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and stress.

Being physically active helps you:

  • keep your heart healthy
  • have more flexible joints, stronger muscles, and better balance
  • lower your risk of diabetes and some types of cancer
  • keep a healthy body weight
  • have a better bone density

Being physically active can also help you stay more independent longer.

Take Your Time

Talk to your doctor to find out what activities are best for you. Some physical activities can be harder for some people to do.

Start slow, for 10 minutes at a time, and work up to what you can do. At first, you may not be able to do 10 minutes at a time. If this happens, do what you can comfortably do, and then slowly work up to 10 minutes. When you can do 10 minutes, slowly work up to one 15 minute session a day, or two 10 minute sessions at different times during the day.

Adjusting Activities

Most physical activities can be adjusted if needed so you can still do them. Some physical activities that people with various level of mobility can participate in include:

  • rugby
  • tennis
  • golf
  • basketball
  • track and field
  • sledge hockey
  • cross country skiing
  • downhill skiing
  • dancing
  • riding a horse
  • go canoeing or kayaking
  • swimming
  • rowing
  • water fitness classes
  • yoga or t’ai chi classes

Talk to someone at your local fitness or community centre to find out more.

Heart-Healthy Activities

To keep your heart, blood vessels, and lungs healthy try these activities:

  • ride a stationary bike
  • use a rowing machine
  • swim or take a water fitness class—many pools have sloped entrances into the water which makes it easier to get in and out without extra help
  • do an aerobic fitness video
  • dance around your house to your favourite music

Strength Activities

Strength activities challenge your muscles by pulling, pushing, or holding muscle contractions (tightness). Strength training helps keep muscles and bones strong, and helps your balance and posture.

One example of strength training is isometric exercises. This is when you contract or tighten a muscle but don’t move the joint. This type of exercise can be used to develop strength when it hurts too much to move a joint, like for people with osteoporosis. Talk to your physiotherapist or certified exercise professional to make sure this type of exercise is safe for you.

Improve your strength at a fitness centre or in your home by doing:

  • free weight exercises while standing or sitting
  • resistance training on machines that you sit on
  • dynaband or tubing exercises

If you don’t know how to use the machines or free weights, talk to a certified exercise professional to make sure you’re doing the exercises the right way.

In a swimming pool, you can move using the water as resistance. If you need help with this or want a fitness program to follow, talk to a swim instructor or certified exercise professional. Some pools also have water fitness classes that you can join.

Flexibility Activities

Flexibility activities help you move your joints and muscles easier. Having more flexibility helps you with daily activities like bending down to tie your shoes, brushing your hair, getting up and down from the floor, getting in and out of the bathtub, and reaching for things in a cupboard.

Do stretching exercises slowly and smoothly—don’t bounce or jerk. Stretching shouldn’t hurt. If it does, talk to a certified exercise professional.

T’ai chi and yoga can also help improve your flexibility. You can do both of these activities standing up or sitting down.

Stretching and other classes that include stretching are available at most fitness centres.

Staying Active

Most activities can be adjusted for any ability or fitness level. Stay active and make it part of your everyday routine—it’s good for your physical and mental health. Try to include different activities that are right for you.

Current as of: October 24, 2018

Author: Chronic Disease Prevention, Alberta Health Services