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Weight management is harder when you are disabled than if you were abled because you are not able to do the same types of workouts if at all. Many disabled people can’t exercise and if we can we are severely limited but unfortunately, most people don’t understand that even our doctors and they just want us to find a way to get some exercise. Doctors often are very quick to judge a disabled person who might be able to exercise fat and lazy without even realizing how difficult it is to create a fitness routine when you have a physical disability. Some people don’t work out not because they are lazy and don’t care about their physical health but they literally don’t know where to start. Fitness is not accessible for disabled people so it can be really hard for disabled people to motivated themselves to want to go to the gym when there are all these barriers. Exercise is hard for me because of my physical disability but I have spent years looking for ways to make it work because even though you have a physical disability and it’s hard it’s still just as important as it is for abled people. In this post, I am going to give some tips on how I exercise as a disabled person so you can have a better tool to create your own fitness routine.
YouTube is your best friend– People often compliment my strength and want to know what exercises I am doing to maintain my strength. I am not comfortable publicly sharing specific exercises because I am not a personal trainer and don’t want to be held responsible for anyone getting injured but I will tell you that my workout is only a bunch of random YouTube random videos that I think are fun. I first found my joy in fitness when I experienced burnout from walking two miles a day and was looking for a better way to get active because I was about to give up on fitness. My love for Pilates all started when I searched extreme abs on YouTube and found my first pilates video with that name. Why I was searching for advanced ab workouts when I was a total beginner is beyond me but that search led me to the fitness channel I still use ten years later! When you are disabled it can be hard to find a workout that you can do because of your limited mobility but YouTube can help make it easier. You can search for specific body parts that you want to target which is important for a disability because not all your muscles work properly so you can’t do whatever workout you want. You usually won’t run out of content because active creators make new videos every week or two and even though you may not be able to do all of them some of them you will. Fitness can be made fun but a lot of people convince themselves it’s meant to be be made torcheous or they use their disability as an excuse not to workout! I can’t say I blame disabled people for not wanting to workout because your disability can take the fun out of it!
Use Pinterest- I have been using Pinterest a lot lately because I still don’t have movement in my leg from my recent hip replacement surgery. If you need workout tips but would rather create your own routines instead of following along to a twenty minutes workout out video Pinterest may be the option for you. You can find tons of blog posts and short videos on Pinterest that explain exercises you can incorporate into your routines. My routine sometimes has moves I physically can’t do so I have to swap them out and Pinterest is a great place to find new stuff. I have also gotten some good ideas for hip strengthening from Pinterest during my recovery. Sometimes I have to modify because of my disability makes some things impossible.
Check Facebook or Instagram- Facebook and Instagram are filled with all kinds of information that can be great but it can also be harmful because it’s totally wrong. I would not recommend using Facebook or Instagram as your main source for fitness information because you don’t need training and anyone can post a workout to social media. If you have been doing workout videos from someone you know who is trustworthy it’s worth checking to see what they have on Facebook or Instagram. A lot of creators put different things on their social media that they wouldn’t put on their blogs or YouTube channel so you don’t want to miss out on all the action! The trainers I follow have their full-length video but also on their social media there is exclusive moves not in their videos and how to’s so you can do exercises correctly with proper form.
Weighlifting- People with Spina Bifida do have a stronger upper body than the average person because we use our arms as much as abed people use their legs! Many people with Spina Bifida have either no movement of their legs or none at all so we completely depend on our arms to move. I am often complimented with the strength of my upper body but sometimes I also feel insulted when it is assumed that all my strength is from my crutches. My crutches do give me some strength becuase you need crutches to walk but if I didn’t lift weights I would not have the upper body strength I do. I lift heavier weights not because I want to brag about how much I can lift but I use it as a cardio workout as well since it’s difficult with a disability. If you are lifting light weights it will be very difficult to get your heart rate up enough to make it a cardio workout. If you have a physical disability and cardio is difficult weightlifting is a good choice because you can make weightlifting a cardio workout! Building your strength is important when you have a physical disability where you use your arms constantly because life will be much harder if you don’t have the strength to support even your own body weight!
Try resistance training– When I first started working out I was out of shape and did not lift even very light weights because I didn’t have the strength to do so. My workout consisted of only bodyweight movements and as I got stronger I added light weights which now has led to some reasonably heavy but it took years of training and not giving up to get there! The very first workout I ever did was a weightless arm pilates workout which looked like a joke so I did it more times than I probably needed to and was sore for several days .Don’t underestimate the power of pushups and arms circles because if you do it right it will be challenging! If you want to get weights but can’t afford to adding pulses to pretty much any move will make it more challenging.
Walk around as much as I can- I don’t love cardio because I kind of ruined it for myself when I walked two miles a day at the beginning of my fitness journey and burnt myself out. I am kind of afraid to do cardio because the damage I caused when doing that took me years to come back from. I don’t really do much cardio workouts but I do try and walk around my house as much as I can to get some exercise. My wheelchair doesn’t even come into my house much unless I am recovering from surgery and need it because I don’t have enough strength to do even basic tasks! If you are a fulltime wheelchair user with a manual wheelchair but the inability to walk you can still do this except instead of walking around your house roll!!
Disabled people that are able to work out should try to be as active as possible, but I don’t judge people that don’t want to because not everyone can dedicate hours a week into finding an accessible routine. Humiliating someone by calling them fat and lazy is not helpful nor is it motivation to help someone get in shape but will probably do the exact opposite. I wish professionals would show disabled people exercises that would help them be more active or direct them to someone who can. Exercise is a little bit easier for me because I can move my legs more than most people but it’s hard because my hip are dislocated and there are a lot of moves that are physically impossible. Exercise with a disability is hard and most people are not motivated to do it not because they don’t want to be healthy and fit, but fitness is not accessible, and they don’t know how. We need to stop shaming disabled people for not working out until there is a better way for disabled people to have access to more accessible routines.! The only reason I do workouts is because I spend hours a week looking for accessible routines and eat healthily but not all disabled people have that kind of time. Do you struggle to stay in shape as a disabled and how do you stay fit?