Fitness Articles

Strength Training with a Disability

More Strength Means Greater Independence

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.

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