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Meeting the Physical Activity Guidelines – A Call to Fitness Professionals

by NCHPAD February 24, 2010

Woman working out at the gym

Physical activity has been shown to improve cardiovascular and muscular fitness, mental health, and the ability to perform activities of daily living.  And though I hope it’s of no surprise, this holds true for everyone.

For the most part, the guidelines for people with disabilities are not much different from the guidelines designated for “active” adults.  The main difference seems to be the incorporation of the phrase “who are able to” into the specific recommendations as well as the removal of the suggestion that individuals should continue to increase or progress activity to reap even further health benefits (i.e. “the more the better”).  There is also an additional recommendation for people with disabilities to consult a health-care provider about the amounts and types of physical activity that are appropriate for their abilities.

So let’s break this down: 

  • Physical activity provides the same benefits to everyone. 
  • Everyone should work toward performing the same amount and types of physical activity on a daily basis.
  • BUT, if you have a disability, you should find out how to do so. 

Sounds simple.

But how do you find out how and where to exercise if (for example) you were born with spina bifida and the only person that you have ever seen for exercise (physical therapy) is at the rehabilitation hospital 2 hours away?  PLUS, you use crutches to ambulate to work so don’t have enough energy reserve to take additional walks around your neighborhood but there are no curb cuts for using your wheelchair on the sidewalks.  PLUS, your local gym doesn’t have any upper body machines or staff members who seem comfortable with your disability.  PLUS, you have trouble regulating your body temperature and are concerned that any exercise will exacerbate your spasticity or other neurological symptoms. 

That doesn’t make it sound so easy, does it?

People with disabilities may find more difficulty than most in meeting the recommended Physical Activity Guidelines based on the barriers they face when seeking out physical activity.  Barriers can be architectural (there is no curb cut), programmatic (chairs are not available in exercise classes), or attitudinal (assumptions based on a diagnosis or the use of an assistive device). 

Studies show that physical activity can be done safely when the program is matched to an individual’s abilities.  We all have different abilities, different strengths and weaknesses, different levels of activity, different needs, different interests, etc.  As fitness professionals, we have the opportunity of a lifetime to provide a much needed and appreciated service to millions of people (with and without disabilities) by becoming trained, knowledgeable and willing to adapt activities to address society’s differences, regardless of the existence of medical diagnoses.

So what do we do now?  Here are a few suggestions:

 

  1. Look at what the person can do, not their limitations.
  2. Seek training and educational opportunities. 
    1. For example, there is a new specialty certification from the American College of Sports Medicine and the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability called a Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer
  3. Expand your marketing.  The world of disability is a large one, 54 million, and it is also a well connected.  Often one member/client will mean many more to follow.

 For more information about physical activity for people with disabilities, go to www.ncpad.org.

 

 

What else can fitness professionals do?  What are you already doing?

Tags: , ,

People with Disabilities

Comments

2/25/2010 7:55:07 AM #

I have noticed that there are stairs going into the entrance to my gym, and hardly any equipment for people with disabilities (no upper body cardio!). It is the only gym for miles!

Thanks for this important and insightful blog post, I really hope fitness trainers and centers read this and start thinking about their clientele in a new way. One would think that even purely from a business perspective it would be in their best interest to do so.

Dora United States |

3/1/2010 5:20:13 PM #

Thank you for your comments Dora.  I fully agree, I think there is actually a great business case for marketing fitness and fitness facilities to people with disabilities.  I think people may be afraid to advertise that they have an accessible feature (i.e. a pool lift) because it may suggest that other parts of their facility are NOT accessible, but there could be so many more people looking for and using that one feature.  

Blythe Hiss |

2/25/2010 6:12:06 PM #

Hi Blythe,
We just wanted to tell you what a great post this was! We spend 24/7 trying to make it easier for the health challenged to exercise and work-out.  This is an important article. We reposted it on our website (healingmoves.net) & tweeted it too. We linked it back to you and your wonderful organization.  Thank you!
Debbie

Debbie United States |

3/1/2010 5:05:20 PM #

I really appreciate your comments Debbie.  Being open to making things more usable and more accessible for MORE people is a win-win situation in my opinion.  If you have any specific suggestions or examples of issues, problems, or solutions that you've come across, please share!

Blythe Hiss United States |

3/3/2010 3:42:32 PM #

I think it is key that fitness professionals and trainers look first at a persons abilities first and what they want to accomplish. Of course there may be obstacles to overcome regarding there disability, but through collaboration between the trainer and client those obstacles may by overcame. Thus, fitness goals will be realized by the person with the disability.

Ryan United States |

3/8/2010 5:27:59 AM #

This is very interesting post to stay fit.

Zealous India |

3/14/2010 3:59:14 PM #

Hello Blythe, i really enjoyed reading your post and was thinking about quoting from it and linking to you on my blog (Link Removed) if you don't mind ... thanks alot!

Hayes Carter United States |

4/12/2010 5:15:27 PM #

Hi Hayes, I don't mind at all if you quote from the post (which you probably already have since I am a little delayed in responding here).  Thanks so much for reading!

Blythe Hiss |

4/3/2010 11:47:03 AM #

I am 80 years old and navigate with an electric wheelchair. I would very much like to get input, suggestions,recomendations thoughts and ideas on a program to help lose weight and keep it off. My major problem is no matter how litle I eat I still gain weight. I am sure you have some ideas that I can try. Please help.
Thank you

Richard Henig United States |

4/12/2010 5:14:07 PM #

Hi Richard, why don't you give me or one of our information specialists a call at 800-900-8086 and let us find out more about your abilities and interests and we can individualize a packet of information, maybe with some seated exercises, healthy recipes and local programs in your specific area.  Thanks for reading the blog!

Blythe Hiss |

6/3/2010 10:43:00 PM #

Hello Blythe, thank you very much for this empathetic and engaging post. I wish there were more facilities available to people with disabilities, such as people with arthritis.

I was wondering if it would be possible to use a part of your post on my psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis blog (Link Removed), with a link to your post. I was going to compile your post with another article on your website – the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Thanks a lot!

Julia United States |

6/3/2010 10:44:01 PM #

Hello Blythe, thank you very much for this empathetic and engaging post. I wish there were more facilities available to people with disabilities, such as people with arthritis.

I was wondering if it would be possible to use a part of your post on my psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis blog (Link Removed), with a link to your post. I was going to compile your post with another article on your website – the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Thanks a lot!

Julia United States |

6/28/2010 9:18:29 PM #

An excellent post - I run a "self-help" blog called Lose Weight, Feel Great (Link Removed).  I understand that information posted on Government blogs is copyright free - however, I'd like to post excerpts of this post to my blog and also include links to the full post.  Just wanted to make sure that it is OK before I do.

Also I agree with this post entirely - you need to have some physical activity if you want to lose weight, and remain mobile.  Activity will help you maintain your weight loss.

A great post!

Regards,

Mohamed

Mohamed Canada |

6/28/2010 9:28:23 PM #

...actually hope you don't mind but I've gone ahead and posted the story with links back here.

Thanks,

Mohamed

Mohamed Canada |

7/7/2010 3:48:22 PM #

My friend is studying to become a personal trainer, and I looked through her study book one day and there was no information on working with people with disabilities! It really made me realize how far behind some areas are when it comes to physical activity and accommodating to all levels of abilities.

Jeni United States |

7/8/2010 2:18:43 PM #

Working with people with mobility disabilities and discussing exercise options with them, I hear quite frequently the terms, "unaccessible," "unwelcoming," "unhelpful" used to describe exercise facilities, trainers, programs, etc.  Facilities and trainers need to reflect on what their goals are; how they can help others, as in people of all abilities,  meet their goals.  Sometimes it is a simple accomodation that makes a big difference and gives a person the little push or self-confidence they need to move forward.

Lisa United States |

7/12/2010 4:52:28 AM #

This post really had me thinking about this particular issue in way I havent before. Its something I do believe we need to talk about more. Thankyou!

Rerto Jordans Tunisia |

3/22/2011 1:02:27 PM #

Excellent article, I was searching for psoriasis pictures online and somehow found this. But this is a topic that deserves much more attention. I don't think the public is aware of the toll a disability takes on an individual.

wallace United States |

5/29/2011 9:01:38 PM #

I agree with this
For the most part, the guidelines for people with disabilities are not much different from the guidelines designated for “active” adults.  The main difference seems to be the incorporation of the phrase “who are able to” into the specific recommendations as well as the removal of the suggestion that individuals should continue to increase or progress activity to reap even further health benefits (i.e. “the more the better”).
(Link Removed)

wiwik Indonesia |

9/18/2011 6:54:26 AM #

This is an inspiring post. Making exercise available and accessible to all sectors of the community is so important. Studies have shown that exercise has so many benefits, so providing such a service to the disabled is so important.

Millard Australia |

10/24/2011 10:52:47 PM #

Physical Activity is very good essential to us. The guidelines clearly understand but the point is hard to do. This blog help me to encourage other people like my father. He is not in a good condition but doing really fine. I told him to visit this blog for him to do the Physical Activity Guidelines. This is really great and excited.

Joseph Ledoux United States |

10/24/2011 11:16:02 PM #

Most of us have a problem in our physical fitness,
i want my body strong but all ia have to do is to eat and play in computer game.but i really appreciated this blog i learned a lot.

philip jun Republic of the Philippines |

10/24/2011 11:21:33 PM #

As I observed many people have disabilities and I am one of them. This Physical Activity doing really great in making me more active and physically fit. I know in my own if you have lot of confidence and physical minded you have a great result. Thanks to this blogs!

Danae Johnson United States |

10/25/2011 1:10:58 AM #

Yeah..lisa is definitely right its all about the effort of a person how he can give more time to there selves, not all of us can have enough time to do gym, but theirs many ways to do that in our house.

philip jun Republic of the Philippines |

11/16/2011 3:43:33 PM #

It was a pleasure reading your blog and the sensible remarks about "looking at what a  person can do - not their limitations" is so sensible but not always undertaken by fitness specialists. However there are other problems as well and many of the people with disabilities that I come in to contact with find it difficult to find a fitness center that will  look out for their needs. Anyone who arrives using one of those (Link Removed) (Link Removed) will be looked at as a hopeless case, most fitness center tend to pander to the young and fit.
There are a vast number of disabled people out there who could be so much better if they were able to find a center that would accommodate their needs. I struggle with arthritis in my lower  joints and have had joint replacements but am still restricted, exercise for the upper  part of my  body would probably help and might even allow me to reduce the size  I am but where do I go to get this attention.  As I have in the past  used rollators to go into a fitness center with I have seen the trainers faces  as they  looked at me thinking that they don't want to bother as I am disabled, or that is the feeling I have had. Your ideas of helping the disabled by looking at what they can do is very sensible we just need to have enough centers to offer that sort of service.

Robert Winchurch United Kingdom |

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