Guest writer Joe Flemming
The “cans” and “cannots” are a distinct reality for people with disabilities - where mobility issues or physical impairment inhibit even simple tasks and day to day functioning. Wheelchairs have no limitation on fun, however, and this list of activities that help you stay physically and mentally fit are just the ticket:
Chair Yoga: The restorative and healing benefits of yoga can still be attained when seated. Chair yoga involves the deep breathing, gentle movements and meditation of yoga, but with practicing the poses sitting down. Proven to help alleviate back pain, lower blood pressure, and reduce stress levels, chair yoga is a fun and challenging way to sync up your parasympathetic nervous system, calm your brain, and stay fit.
Biking: Handcycling transforms bicycling into an adaptive activity where someone with a strong upper body who might have a disability can pedal with their hands. In the same vein, tandem bicycles, where you are connected to another person who is cycling, and body powered trikes, where swaying from side to side moves your vehicle, are fun options as well. Find adaptive bicycles online for purchasing or contact your local recreation center to see if they have any available.
Coloring: You heard that right, coloring. Keeping the mind fit, despite disability, is key to staying sharp and preventing cognitive decline and memory loss. Coloring is one of those enjoyable activities that requires fine motor skills, focus, and creativity - all great exercise for the brain. Find free printable coloring sheets online or coloring books for purchase in a convenience or grocery store near you.
Bowling: If a wheelchair is the only thing limiting your movement, bowling is a great adaptable activity worth trying! Incorporating a little heart-pumping competition, concentration, and upper body exercise from lifting and rolling bowling balls, bowling can add up to hours of fun that helps you stay in shape. Contact a local bowling alley to see what adaptive resources they have for people with disabilities.
Chair Cardio & Aerobics: Working your non-limited muscles and limbs can actually be done quite successfully from your wheelchair. Find inspiration and instruction for a sweat-breaking chair cardio workout on Youtube, or hit up your local gym to see what aerobic machines, free weights, and instruments (like resistance pulleys) they have available for people with disabilities.
Practical Accessories for Staying Active
Need a little assistance staying active and getting around? These practical solutions can help:
- Reach grabber tool: This nifty, often inexpensive assistive device acts simply as extension of your arm with a rubber or suction-cup claw on the end, great for picking up small items like your keys and phone as you head out the door to the gym. How do you find the best reacher grabber for you? Look online or at your local pharmacy for lightweight, collapsible, and durable ones that will be easy to take with you on the go.
- Virtual assistant: Want to play some meditative music while you practice yoga? Or add a reminder for tomorrow’s bowling competition to your calendar? A virtual assistant, like Siri for iPhone, or the freestanding Amazon Echo with Alexa, can respond to simple voice commands and help you with tons of tasks.
- Hydration backpack: If you plan on exercising more and staying active, hydration will be key to keeping you going and preventing you from overdoing it. Hydration backpacks are lightweight, durable ‘bladders’ filled with water that sit in a pack and have a hose with bite valve coming out of it. Without having to worry about toting around or refilling a water bottle, a hydration backpack could be your answer to staying hydrated while you exercise.
When looking to step (or roll) out of your comfort zone and approach fun, new activities that help you stay fit, remember what Vincent Van Gogh wrote, “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”