Fitness Articles

Strength Training with a Disability

More Strength Means Greater Independence

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Whether you have a disability or a chronic condition that limits your mobility, exercise doesn't have to be out of reach or even painful. In fact, depending on your condition, your health care provider has probably recommended that you increase your physical activity. That may have you wondering, "How am I supposed to move more when I have these limitations?"

Exercise provides so many health benefits, from decreased risk for heart disease to a better ability to maintain a healthy weight, and even a more positive body image and outlook—and these benefits extend to individuals with limitations as well. In fact, exercise may even help alleviate pain and degenerative symptoms associated with chronic conditions like arthritis, helping many people increase their mobility and independence while decreasing pain.

Why Strength Training?
Strength training exercises help increase your overall muscular strength, making everyday tasks and caring for yourself, others, and your household easier. Overall, maintaining your strength can help you remain independent and enjoy life experiences. For more details on strength training and its benefits, read SparkPeople's Strength Exercise Reference Guide.

Keep Your Safety in Mind
Before starting any exercise program, always check with your health care provider first—especially if you have a chronic condition or disability. Your doctor knows firsthand about your condition and health history and she can provide not only exercise ideas but also limitations based on your condition. This is especially important if you suffer from a condition that directly affects your muscles (such as cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis) and requires specific modifications.

In addition, remember to listen to your body and not to attempt any form of exercise that makes you uncomfortable or puts your safety at risk. For example, some individuals are comfortable swimming with only the use of their upper body to propel them. If you lack swimming training or upper body strength, or fear counting on your arms alone to keep you afloat, don't attempt this form of exercise—especially without help or supervision.

Remember to start out slowly. If it's been awhile since you've exercised or lifted heavy weights, always try strength exercises with no weights first so that you can ensure proper form. When you can complete 1-3 sets of each exercise with no weight, then move on to light weights, and gradually increase from there as you build strength. Remember that to build strength and stamina, you have to push your body past its limits, a principle known as overloading.
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About The Author

Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.

Member Comments

  • I hated strength training until I discovered the seated videos. Thankfully I don't have mobility challenges, but I find these exercises valuable because they allow me to focus on one muscle group at a time. - 2/28/2016 7:38:45 AM
  • I'm sharing this with my sister-in-law, she has a lot of health issues that limit her mobility and has become very depressed about her weight gain. She can only stand/walk for short periods of time. - 2/27/2016 9:42:15 PM
  • Thanks for sharing. - 10/17/2015 10:47:45 PM
    Thank you so much for this..I was severely injured in a car accident that had me in a wheel chair for 5 yrs.. 18 leg and feet operations..Well I packed on pounds
    I'm up and walking but with a lot of pain so the weight gain continues. I so tired of talking about what I can't do instead of doing what I can do.
    I sooooo need to get moving!!!! Thanks!
    - 10/15/2015 8:45:16 AM
  • I need to use this resource more often! I do have a hard time finding exercises that work for me and then I get discouraged and quit! I know this is here but, I am horrible at using it! Time to make a change! - 9/26/2015 12:38:19 AM
  • Thanks for this article...I will give it a try. I will also be starting a water workout soon. I have limited mobility & use a wheelchair due to 2 back surgeries (lower & upper) that didn't do much but left me with severe back pain still, osteoarthritis & trouble with my knees & hips. I also have lost grip strength & have numbness in my right hand. I get some cardio by walking & rolling in my wheelchair. - 3/15/2015 9:58:06 PM
    Thank you for this as I need to be able to exercise but am limited what I can do so now I feel I can do more so bless you. - 1/4/2015 4:50:19 AM
  • Thanks for this one. - 5/14/2013 7:56:59 AM
  • Perfect timing now that I've severely injured my knee. - 5/13/2013 8:52:33 PM
  • I can try yhis when my hip is hurting. - 5/13/2013 10:15:21 AM
  • This is a great article for me; I can use these exercises while my fractured ankle is healing. - 3/29/2013 3:48:36 PM
  • Eureka! I've been looking for these articles and links. Now, I can do some strength training that's appropriate! Thank you! - 2/28/2013 1:56:41 PM
    I have been dealing with physical limitations since I had surgery for cancer, I no longer have adductor muscles, along with other missing parts, hip, bones etc... So alot of the exercises that are on here are not possible for me to do..however, there are some that I can do. Bottom line, I will do what I am capable of doing and keep exercising despite the pain(everyday thing). Thanks for the encouragement. - 2/20/2013 6:36:33 AM
    Very helpful for me since I have limited mobility and balance. I also cannot stand more than a minute without just collapsing due to severe back problems caused from damage from Osteoarthritis to my lumbar sacral spine region. - 1/27/2013 3:24:18 AM
  • Nice - I might be able to talk husband into exercise again - 11/3/2012 11:28:22 AM

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