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Staying Active

Staying Active with Limited Mobility

​​​Staying active is good for everyone because there are many health benefits. People who aren’t active may have a higher risk of health problems (e.g., obesity, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease.)

Even if you have a disability or mobility problem, it’s important to be as active as possible.

Benefits of Being Active

Whether you have mobility concerns for a short time or a long time, it’s important to stay active so you:

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

People with mobility problems who take part in activity groups:

  • feel supported to stay active and healthy
  • have a chance to talk to others with similar challenges

Being active can improve your mental health by making you feel better about yourself and getting out with others. Research shows that staying active can help with mental health concerns like depression, anxiety, and stress.

There are many other benefits of being active including:

  • keeping your heart healthy
  • flexible joints, stronger muscles, and better balance
  • lowers your risk of diabetes and some types of cancer
  • helps keep your body weight healthy
  • better bone density

For example, if someone who has arthritis stays active, it can help decrease pain and weakness and make them feel healthier. Being active can also help people stay independent.

Adjusting Activities

If you can’t do an activity, it can usually be adjusted so you can. For example, you can do many sports (e.g., rugby, tennis, golf, basketball, track and field) in a wheelchair. If you’re in a wheelchair, you may be able to dance, ride a horse, go canoeing or kayaking, swim, row, take water fitness classes, or do yoga and t’ai chi classes. Many winter activities can also be adjusted like sledge hockey, cross country skiing, and downhill skiing.

Heart-Healthy Activities

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

  • ride a stationary bike, rowing machine, or a machine that measures the work you do during exercise (arm ergometer)
  • swim or take a water fitness class—many pools have sloped entrances into the water, which will make it easier to get in and out without extra help
  • do an aerobic fitness video or dance around your house to your favourite music

Take Your Time

  • Talk to your doctor to find out what activities are best for you. Some activities can be hard for some people to do.
  • Start slow (e.g., 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.

Strength Activities

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

One example of strength training is isometric exercises. You contract a muscle, but don’t move the joint. This type of exercise helps develop strength when it hurts too much to move a joint (e.g., with osteoporosis). Talk to a physiotherapist or a certified exercise professional to make sure this type of exercise is safe for you.

Here are some ways to improve your strength that you can do at a fitness centre or in your home:

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

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

In a swimming pool, you can do movements 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.

Flexibility Activities

Flexibility activities help you move your joints and muscles easier. Improving flexibility can help 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 items 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 flexibility. You can do both of these activities standing up or sitting down.

Fitness centres offer stretching classes or other classes that include stretching.

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: March 8, 2016

Author: Health Promotion, Alberta Health Services