Spring is already well under way and that means that summer is just around the corner. And summer means skimpy clothing, swimsuits and lots of skin.
Wait! Before you go into full-on rabbit mode in order to slim down in preparation, consider exercise. Exercise is the most effective way to lose weight, as long as you’re burning more calories than you’re consuming. Unfortunately, exercise can be difficult if you have a disability. There aren’t many programs out there that can incorporate a wheelchair or walker, and the ones that are out there are generally so low-impact, a person can barely work up a sweat. Exercise programs that do make your heart rate jump aren’t made for people who have disabilities or use mobility equipment.
However, there are some programs out there made specifically for people with disabilities and other high-impact programs can be modified to make them easier for you to do. Here are some suggestions, based on my personal experience.
• Seat-A-Robics – Led by a former aerobics instructor who was paralyzed in a car accident, at about 25 minutes long, this video is a great routine for beginners. It can be used by the elderly, people with cerebral palsy or
quadriplegia. However, because the routine works the same muscles repetitively, it can be very tiring.
• Richard Simmons: Sit Tight – If you can get past the cheesiness that is Richard, this is another great one for beginners. Made specifically for people with disabilities, or those who are so overweight that they must sit to exercise, this video can also be used be a variety of people. The one thing that makes this video better than Seat-A-Robics is that it also offers leg exercises. If you can do them, they’re great, but if you can’t, the upper body exercises will still get your heart pounding.
• Tae Bo Ultimate Upper Body – This video is a compilation of the upper body movements from other Tae Bo Advanced videos. Personally, it’s one of my favorites. It not only works your arms and shoulders, but also your abdominals and obliques, which are important muscles for posture.
This is good to consider if you have scoliosis or other back problems. At an hour long, this is not the video for you if you are just starting to work out. Even after working out with the beginning Tae Bo video for a few weeks, I couldn’t get all the way through this one. Don’t force it. Even the first 10 minutes are a great beginning!
• Pilates – There are a variety of Pilates videos available, but the ones I use have three videos: beginner, intermediate and advanced. There is a big jump between beginner and intermediate, so don’t rush. These videos are also good only if you have the ability to get on to the floor. The biggest problem I have with Pilates is the bending of the spine that is required. Having had scoliosis surgery, I can’t bend my spine in the same ways as the instructor. However, many of the exercises can still be done with slight modification by working only to your personal limits. These exercises are very good if you are more worried about muscle tone than actually losing weight.
• Rolling – Okay, if you use a manual wheelchair, this one probably seems pretty obvious, but is actually a great way to work out. If you want, you can roll around your neighborhood or around a track. If, like me, you don’t have access to a track or other smooth rolling surface, use your house. We recently replaced the floors in our house with all wood laminate, so now I roll around the kitchen and great room if I don’t feel like doing anything else. The smooth rolling surface makes it great to get and keep momentum. Rolling in your house also prevents struggling up hills—and taking a break while coasting down.
• Be creative! – For variety, do some exercises of your own invention. If you’re in a wheelchair, do in-chair exercises. I do many of these as a way of working my leg and stomach muscles. If your stomach is a problem area, try sitting up straight in your chair and holding in your stomach muscles for as long as you can. Don’t hold your breath—that doesn’t count. Some possible leg exercise include leg lifts, bicycles, scissors or hold your legs out straight in front of you continuously for one minute. All of these will help strengthen those muscles.
Free weights are also a great option and, if you can afford it, there are gym-style machines available that can accommodate a wheelchair. Whatever type of exercise you decide to do, use your imagination. If you think about your body and the style of exercise you have chosen, making modifications won’t be very difficult.
Here’s to a healthier you!