There are very few disabilities that stop all forms of exercise from being healthy. In fact there is almost certainly always an exercise program in one form or another that will have health benefits for any disabled person. Of course the nature of the disability does, to a degree dictate the kind of exercise program that can be adopted, but the fact that exercise has health benefits is a universal truth for most people.
Exercise yields physical, psychological and emotional benefits for people with disabilities, which have been proven in many studies. People with disabilities have been shown, in studies, to be far less likely to engage in physical activities, for reasons including a lack of access, awareness of availability and importance and a lack of support. It is imperative that these obstacles are overcome. The consequences of not engaging in exercise, for those with disabilities are serious and can include reduced circulation, lack of self-esteem, obesity, cardiovascular deterioration and increased dependence on others for support. Secondary conditions to the original disability can result, dramatically reducing the quality of life, including osteoporosis, high blood pressure, obesity, muscle wastage and depression. Regular exercise is known to reduce the risk of conditions such as coronary heart disease, colon cancer and diabetes. Participation in recreational sports and fitness programs can mitigate against this and yield dramatic health benefits for disabled people.
Research has shown that exercise for disabled people is even more important than for people without disabilities. This is largely because there is a 66% higher risk of conditions like diabetes and obesity among disabled people, so exercise is vital in mitigating against these increased risks and going on to live longer, healthier and more vibrant lives. Exercise will also improve digestion and chronic conditions like IBS, which can have a higher prevalence among those living a more sedentary lifestyle.
It is also very easy to understate the important role that getting involved in exercise can have on a person’s social life. Loneliness is rife in the modern world, but even more so among disabled people. It can be very hard to meet people and form connections, so getting involved in community exercise, whether that is wheelchair basketball, tennis, swimming or any other physical activity, exercise can provide the link to a social life that is needed. Isolation is an issue among disabled people, who are far more likely to withdraw from society than others. Taking the plunge and getting involved in local sports clubs, gyms or swimming pools can be the first step to re-integration with society and a major stimulus to self-esteem and a hammer blow to loneliness.
Sleep can be a problem for all of us, but is also proven to be more of an issue if you lead a sedentary life, leaving many disabled people particularly vulnerable to a degree of insomnia. Exercise has been shown to be excellent for helping to regulate sleep patterns, which once again shines a light on its increased importance for disabled people.