Closing the Gap - Making Exercise Accessible
Posted on May 29, 2012 by Lindsey Bean- Kampwerth OTD, OTR/L & Pamela Daugherty COTA/L, BFA
May is Physical Fitness month. These days, physical fitness is on everyone’s mind. From the first lady to your doctor, just about everyone can agree that physical fitness is key to a healthy lifestyle. The American Journal of Preventative Medicine published that due to increasing sedentary lifestyle “42 percent of Americans will be obese by 2030, and 11 percent of the population will be severely obese—or roughly 100 pounds overweight—by that year.” According to the CDC. regular exercise helps you control your weight, reduces risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer, and strengthens bones and muscles, improves mental health, mood, and how you do daily activities. Exercise even helps you live longer. So it goes without saying that we can all benefit from exercise; therefore everyone should have equal access to exercise. But does everyone really have equal access?
If you consider someone with a disability, this is often not the case. The need for equal access to fitness programs & equipment is growing as is the current number of Americans with disabilities. Typically society doesn’t stress the importance of someone with a disability to be physically fit, sometimes the public views people with disabilities as fragile. Yet they may be the most important population to focus on. Studies have shown that individuals with long term diagnoses were less active than the typical population, and this is even more the case with people with neurological conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis.
Everyone, with a disability or not, shares common barriers to working out: time, money, motivation, confidence. Then add to that list more environment created barriers: lack of exposure to exercise or sports at an early age (if the person was born or was young when they acquired their disability), physical barriers of the environment (access the building, access the equipment, getting reasonable assistance), limited affordable transportation, lack of training & education for the fitness professionals, and social stigmas, overprotective caregivers or not having anyone to help and leaving them in a tough situation. Too often the disability becomes the focus instead of the person.
Even though exercise is not yet equally accessible to all, people with disabilities can benefit greatly from regular exercise in the following ways:
- Adapted exercise or exercise designed with people with disabilities in mind, reduces secondary conditions such as high blood pressure, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
- Adapted exercise can also decrease the severity of symptoms of diseases, in particular pain, fatigue, and depression and may reduce the risks of falls.
- Adapted exercise can help people increase strength and endurance to become more independent and engaged in activities of daily living.
With all the research to consider, there is no doubt that accessible, adapted physical activity is ideal for people with and without disabilities maintaining a healthy, productive, and positive life. At Paraquad we are working hard create equal access to exercise for people with disabilities. Some of our success stories include Rita who was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and had a vital lung capacity of 66% in 2006. As of October 2011, Rita is no longer considered to have COPD and has a vital lung capacity of 80%! Rita’s doctor attributes this to her unfailing attendance to Paraquad’s Health and Wellness Program. Kathy first started coming to Paraquad’s Health and Wellness Program in August 2011, she used a power wheelchair to get around her home and community; now she’s walking on the treadmill. “It was hard at first.” Kathy told us, “When I put my mind to my goal of losing weight, it got easier. After the first two months, the exercise started to get easier and that made me want to come. Then I lost my first 5 lbs. and I said, ‘Now! I see the light at the end of the tunnel!’”Click here for more information on what we’re doing to close the gap.