Get going - active ideas for disabled adults
Physical activity is essential to keep us as strong and healthy as possible. Adults need to do at least 150 minutes (two and a half hours) of light to moderate intensity activity each week.
We need to do this to maintain good health, and reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The less activity we do, the more likely we are to put on weight and put our health at risk.
The good news is that every 10 minutes counts. And the more you do, the stronger you’ll become. You’re much more likely to feel better and live longer as a result.
As well as helping us keep an eye on our waistlines, exercise can also be a great boost for your mood, energy and self-confidence. It’s also a great way to get out and meet new people doing the same thing.
Activity isn’t just about becoming physically stronger. It can also help improve your coordination, balance, agility, concentration, stamina, speed and reaction times, by using different parts of your brain. It can help to reduce stress, and you may sleep better too.
Doing Sport Differently
This publication from Disability Rights UK helps to explain the benefits of sport and how you can get more involved:
Top tips – there’s something for everyone
Hated sport at school?
It doesn’t have to be competitive or hard work – just fun! It doesn’t even have to be “sport”. You could try swimming, yoga, dancing, walking, gardening, zumba, hula hooping…
Watching the pennies
It doesn’t have to be expensive, with lots of equipment and clothing. Just getting out for a walk each day can be enough. And there are often reduced rates at gyms or leisure centres if you’re on a low income or benefit.
Choose a challenge
Where you start and what you choose to do is up to you! It all boils down to what you like doing, what you’re able to do, and what you’d like to get out of it.
Never tried it before?
You don’t have to plunge in at the deep end straight away. We all have to start somewhere. And we’re all different, so the amount you’ll be able to do depends on how fit you are to begin with. Begin by trying something new and see how it goes.
How hard should it be?
If you can, try to do a combination of cardio-vascular and muscle-strengthening exercise. Aim to raise your heart rate and maybe get a bit sweaty. You should be a little out of breath and still able to talk, but not sing, while you’re doing it.
How much each day?
Every 10 minutes counts. Gradually build up to doing at least 150 minutes a week, and try a combination of ideas so that it doesn’t get boring - do activities that you enjoy.
Sounds too hard?
Sometimes the hardest part is just getting started. Once you’ve done it, you’ll wonder why you didn’t want to go!
You’ll feel great!
Compare how you feel on the days you exercise with the days you don’t. And just seeing your progress over a few weeks or months will give you a great sense of pride.
Watch a video about keeping fit with a disability on NHS Choices
Ready to get more active?
Going to the gym
It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but many gyms work with local authorities and the NHS to provide GP referral schemes for disabled people. If you meet the necessary criteria your GP can refer you to a local gym.
Find out more about GP exercise referral schemes on NHS Choices
In the gym you can take part in a small, weekly, group exercise sessions run by specially trained, qualified instructors who can give you the right support. Some gyms also have adapted equipment in a smaller room, meaning you can exercise at your own rate in a more private space.
Find your nearest adapted gym on the EFDS website
Try it at home first?
If you’re not sure about going to the gym and want to find ways of being more active at home instead, you could try using resistance bands. These are like giant, stretchy rubber bands that you work against to build up your strength and flexibility. You could also try home DVDs, books, websites, podcasts, or even games or exercise programs on the Wii or other console.
Warm up properly first using these tips from NHSChoices
Get out and about
If the weather’s nice you could try an outdoor gym. These are often provided by local authorities and located in parks. The equipment is sturdy and designed to be easy for everyone to use.
Find your nearest outdoor gym at TGOGC
Swimming is a great way to be more active, because the water can support your body as well as giving extra resistance to work against. It’s especially good for keeping the muscles in your arms, shoulders, chest and back strong, as well as developing stamina. And the sense of freedom and floating can also be a great way to unwind. Local authority pools are accessible for people with a range of disabilities and some also run specialist physiotherapy sessions.
Find your local pool or for more information about disability swimming organisations, try the British Swimming website
It can help keep joints and muscles strong, not to mention a great way to get out and have some fresh air. You can do it alone or with friends and family, and as fast or slow as you like. It’s the simplest and cheapest way of getting around. And because you only need a comfy pair of shoes to get going, it’s easy to fit in a walk.
Find or plan a walk on the Walk4Life website
Get walking advice for people with disabilities from Ramblers
Find accessible nature reserves and other accessible places, on the Nationwide Disabled Access Register
Fancy something more sporty?
Why not try playing…
Did you know that the English Football Association (FA) has six international disability squads, representing a range of impairments? They’ve listed local football clubs by region and type of impairment on their website, so it’s easy to find a team near you.
Find out more at the Disability Football Directory
There are various versions of rugby union for disabled people, including wheelchair rugby for those with upper and lower limb impairments. It’s becoming increasingly popular with both men and women and is an official international sport. It demands speed, agility, power, strength and endurance. It’s not for the faint hearted – it was originally called “Murderball”!
Find more information, including where you can play, on the GB Wheelchair Rugby website
Rugby League more your thing? Check out the Rugby Football League instead.
Table tennis is a fast and accurate game, great for developing coordination, speed, agility and timing for both men and women. Disabled people are grouped into various classes, and the rules remain very similar to the able bodied version. Games consists of five sets, with the winner being the first win three sets.
More information, including places to play, on the English Table Tennis Association website
More great ideas
These organisations also have loads more opportunities for disabled people:
Remember: If you have a serious medical condition, long-standing illness or disability, you should consult your GP before starting to exercise.