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Strength Training with a Disability

More Strength Means Greater Independence


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  • Thanks so much. When SP asked for things we'd like, this was one of them I asked for. Appreciate that you put it together, and will be sharing them!
  • Thank you for your inspiring story
    Thank You so much for your life's story, this has really helped me out alot . See, I have limitations too on what I can and cannot do, chronic pain, bulging disks in the cervical area of the back and I also have lower lumbar issues and nagging to intense pain daily. I use to be very active until my third child was born. After that my body has went down hill. I now have five children and about 70 extra pounds that don't want to budge. Your story has given me hope. Thank you so very much.
    I have started an exercise program for which I have to drive 80 miles 3X a week. Just the drive wears me out. I find that there needs to be a day of recovery between exercise sessions but I guess consistency is the answer. Better 3X a week than nothing. I have osteoarthritis in all my joints and back as well as a Morton's neuroma in my foot. Some days everything acts up and it takes all I've got to get into the warm therapy pool.

  • I have permanent disabilities to my right shoulder and upper arm, and right knee and shin. Both have steel plates and screws, and my range of motion for both is around 90 degrees to 100 degrees. I cannot do high impact exercises, nor can I lift more than a few pounds with my right arm, due to permanently torn cartilage and forwardly misaligned shoulder, from a poorly done surgery that cannot be corrected. With all that said, I do get frustrated with my limitations, as I was pretty good with weights and flexibility exercises,and aerobics, prior to my injuries, 2 years ago. The information in this article is most helpful, and I will give some of the moves a try. At 57, I cannot afford much more loss of strength and flexibility. I lost too much strength and range of movements, during my long recovery, and that just is not me.
  • I am challenged by rheumatoid arthritis. Exercise is, of course, critical to the management of my disease. Warm water exercise is all I can do right now. And, when I am in a flare, as now, my hands are curled up and terribly painful, so it is not possible to grasp or hold anything, such as a dumbbell. I do use water resistance and I have water dumbbells, which I use when my hands allow. My feet, also, are extremely painful during as RA flare, so just walking down to the warm water pool is painful. BUT - the show must go on! And losing weight is going to make life easier. So - on with the show! And thank you for helpful comments and recommendations!

    My limitation is my hip. I had a complete hip replacement at the age of 45, after years of pain and limited mobility from childhood disease. My doctor wants me to do things like ride a bike or swim, and prefers walking and weight bearing exercises not be my main mode of exercise. So, I've tried several different exercise bikes, but because I'm so short, it's almost impossible to find one to fit me well, therefore it's quite painful in the groin area. But, I'm still searching for that perfect bike that will fit my budget, and will eventually start going to the pool on a regular basis.
  • My disability is chronic anemia, a type of MDS. When I was diagnosed in 1990, my hematologist said, "There is nothing you can do." Hah! That is when I became deliberate and consistent about diet and exercise.
    It has paid off. At 66, my BMI, resting pulse rate, blood pressure, and cholesterol are all very nice. My skin is pretty good, and I wear size 4.
    Now, let's talk about motivation and habit. I exercise every day, including days when my HCT is 18. I exercise more when my HCT is around 29. What would be the alternative? Sit on the couch and give up life? I need all the stamina I can get, and diet and exercise are key.
    Thank-you to all who donate blood! You help me to life a near-normal life.
  • A wonderful article! Although I am not in a wheelchair, my exercise plan is restricted due to the total hip replacement I had four years ago. There are some exercises I cannot do. This gives me a great list of alternatives.
    Thank you.
  • Excellent excellent excellent start. I'd love to see more such articles.

    A couple of things to keep in mind... your "health care provider" is a good first step, however, keep in mind that folks with allopathic approaches are quite variable in their skills, interest and knowledge about both nutrition and exercise approaches. Keep in mind too that a very low percentage of people with disabilities are employed at their capacity (I'm an exception) and that means... less $ available for spendy consultations. If the doctor can't give substantive advice, physical therapists or people with training in kinesiology, which is "how muscles work together" (like chiropractors or even massage therapists) can sometimes provide thoughtful suggestions.

    These exercises are excellent. Note that hatha yoga is hugely adaptable for any ability as "the best you can do is adequate" and improvements are progressive. Swimming or water exercises like ah chi may work well for some.

    I will also share that this is my third year as a team leader for a virtual team for people with disabilities for the "president's fitness challenge" -- which includes activities for people with disabilities. The program offers options for everyone from sedentary people to marathoners (our team had everything from a 28 year old post heart attack participant (yes, cleared by her doctor) to a guy who had participated in 23 marathons in his wheelchair. And yes, we did occasionally adapt some of the suggested exercises (think about chopping firewood and hauling it to your house in your wheelchair, for instance!)

    Thanks thanks thanks for addressing this issue. It would be fun to have a fitness video that features a disabled model (do keep in mind there are all sorts of disabilities out here!) One of my favorite images was of my boyfriend from some years ago running with a guide -- carrying the Olympic torch. Oh... yeah... he was blind. And he also was big into riding horses in the back country. He also threw me in the ocean once despite my resistance.

    So... lotsa options out there. Exercise, whether isotonic or aerobic, can be a real healer and energy provider. Best regards and thanks again... Kathy aka Wallowa

    Thanks! My son uses a wheelchair and was very interested in doing more exercises with mom--now that he's seen my progress. I'm looking forward to showing the article to him as well.
  • Thank you for addressing us, the people with limited mobility! It gets disheartening at times reading about how one should "push it to the limit" or "sweat it out"

    I am happy if I don't fall over walking and even that I can not do for more than 20 minutes at a time. Can not break sweat doing that...

    Thanks again! I needed this.
  • Finally the kind of exercise article I've been looking for! I have had to modify every other exercise routine I've found (from sparkpeople and elsewhere) in order to do them. I have a unique situation with my disability. I am afflicted with RSD in my right leg. It affects my skin, muscles and bones with burning pain 24/7. I cannot bear full weight on that leg and only bend it about 30 degrees. Since I am on crutches and uneven weight bearing I now have back problems. I go to physical therapy for the back pain. I am allowed to do any exercise I am up to doing per doctors' orders (orthopedic and pain mgmt.) but with the limited mobility most exercises have to be greatly modified (by me) so I know I don't do justice to them. Before this all I had was a tape for people over 50 that I could not do a lot of even though they did show you how to do some with less impact. This is the kind of thing I've been looking for. Thank you!!
  • Hi
    this article is great! I am wheelchair user (i have spina bifida since) and been looking for something to help with losing weight, which I have gain a bit this past year due to health issues.
  • I've been a member since 3/18/08, and due to my disability, I am always looking for articles that deal with this issue and exercising. Am I ever glad I found this today. It must be a blessing, because it has been a topic of conversation on one of my Spark Teams....."Disabilities & Handicaps." Thank you.


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