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Healthy New Year

Fitness for Those with Disabilities and Older Adults

Fitness for Those with Disabilities

Physical activity is great for individuals of all sizes, shapes, and abilities—including those with disabilities. The same physical activity recommendations apply: For adults, 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week. Children with disabilities should aim for 60 minutes of physical activity each day, and muscle-strengthening activities for both age groups two or more days per week can offer additional health benefits.

The following are some ideas on how to get active:

  • Wheeling yourself in a wheelchair
  • Wheelchair basketball, tennis, football, or softball
  • Aquatic therapy
  • Hand-crank bicycling
  • Rowing
  • Seated volleyball
  • Horseback riding
  • Working with a resistance band
  • Adapted yoga
  • Swimming or water aerobics

If you have a disability and cannot meet the recommended guidelines, engage in regular physical activity based on your abilities and—most importantly—avoid inactivity. Some physical activity is always better than none.

Exercise for Older Adults

Exercise is safe for almost everyone, and older adults are no exception. According to the National Institute on Aging, being physically active can help you continue to do the things you enjoy, boost your mood, and help you stay independent as you age. It can reduce the risk of developing some diseases and disabilities that develop as you grow older, yet it's also an effective treatment for many chronic conditions.

If you haven't worked out in a while, it's important to start out at a low level of effort and work your way up slowly. Starting slow will help prevent injury. You may want to talk with your doctor if you start an exercise program or significantly increase your physical activity, especially if you have a medical condition, such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease.

As you exercise, make sure you listen to your body. For example, during a moderate-intensity activity (such as brisk walking), you can sense that you are pushing yourself but that you aren't near your limit. You can begin to increase intensity slowly as you become more fit.

There are plenty of opportunities each day to fit in more physical activity. For example:

  • When you unload the groceries, strengthen your arms by lifting the milk carton or a one-pound can a few times before you put it away.
  • When you go shopping, build your endurance by parking the car at the far end of the parking lot and walking briskly to the store. Or, get off the bus one or two stops earlier than usual.
  • Take a few extra trips up and down the steps at home to strengthen your legs and build endurance.
  • Try to do some of your errands on foot rather than in the car.
  • While you're waiting in line, practice your balancing skills by standing on one foot for a few seconds, then the other. Gradually build up your time.
  • While you're talking on the phone, stand up and do a few leg raises or toe stands to strengthen your legs.

No matter your age, health history, or fitness level, it's important to make physical activity an important part of your daily routine.

Workout to Go

Designed to fit easily into your purse or travel bag, Workout to Go from the National Institute on Aging can help you stay in shape for the activities you enjoy most. And you can do the 13 easy-to-follow strength, balance, and flexibility exercises in this booklet anytime, anywhere. Take it with you to the gym, on vacation, or even to the office.

Order your own copy by visiting

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Read More "Healthy New Year" Articles

Tips for a Healthy New Year / Fitness for Those with Disabilities and Older Adults

Winter 2016 Issue: Volume 10 Number 4 Page 10-11