Thirty minutes per day, five days per week. That’s the amount of physical activity experts recommend for adult Americans. It doesn’t seem like a lot, yet most of us don’t get anywhere close to that.
But why? We know exercise is good for us. We know it strengthens our hearts, our muscles, and our bones. We are aware it helps us avoid chronic illness like heart disease and diabetes. We know it makes us happier, gives us more self esteem, and keeps us mentally healthy too. So why don’t we make it a priority?
The excuses are many. For some of us, it’s about time. Working and taking care of family monopolizes every spare minute, it seems, and we just can’t find the extra 150 minutes per week. For others, it’s money. Gym memberships and workout gear are expensive. The rest of us cite lack of motivation, lack of energy, and lack of knowledge as our reasons for living a mostly sedentary lifestyle.
Now try adding a wheelchair, a service dog, or frequent panic attacks to the mix. Thanks to additional challenges like these, the percentage of disabled people who participate in regular physical activity is even lower than that of the general population. While it may be more difficult for people with mobility issues, visual and hearing impairments, or mental disorders to get active, it is just as important for people with disabilities to care for their bodies and minds. That’s why the recommendations for physical activity are the same for persons with disabilities as it is for able-bodied peers.
The good news is, exercise doesn’t have to be so intimidating. Even with a disability, a few simple steps can help you find a suitable workout routine that helps you stay healthy and happy.
Step 1 – Pick an activity you enjoy. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, concentrate on the activities you can. And remember, exercise can be just about anything that gets your heart rate up and challenges your muscles, from walking your dog to a water aerobics class. You are also far more likely to continue your workouts if you don’t hate doing them.
Step 2 – Check with your doctor. Before you start a new activity, you should always get clearance from your doctor and/or physical therapist. They may also be able to offer tips to help you get the most out of your new exercise routine specific to your abilities and fitness level.
Step 3 – Start slow. If you’re new to exercising, it will take a month or so for it to become a habit. Setting realistic short and long-term goals can help you stay motivated. Once you start to see and feel the physical and mental results, you’ll want to keep going.
Step 4 – Get a buddy. Having a workout partner not only makes exercising more fun, it also keeps you accountable. After all, it’s much more difficult to cancel your workout if someone else is counting on you. Your “accountabilibuddy” can be a friend, personal trainer, or even your service animal.
Step 5 – Commit. Life happens. You get busy, hurt, or sick, and working out is the first thing to go. Don’t beat yourself up. Just get back into your routine as soon as you can and remember, your health and well-being is worth every bit of energy you put into it.
In reality, there is no real excuse for not taking care of ourselves. The choice between the long-term, life-changing results of making our health and wellness a priority… and the consequences of not doing it… should be an easy one.