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Man showing exercises for people with a disability

Importance of fitness and exercise for people with disabilities

October 19, 2015

It’s important for all people, including those with a disability, to try and strike up an exercise regime suited to their needs. It may seem daunting at first, but dive in and give it a go!

Exercise is something of a buzzword in today’s modern society, and with good reason. Aussies love to get active, with one in three regularly playing sport or exercising (Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABS). An increasing number of people with a disability are also getting into fitness – the ABS also states that around a quarter of Australian people with a disability actively play sport or exercise (24 per cent at the last count, in 2009).

The simple truth is, the perks and benefits of exercise can be experienced by everyone, here’s why fitness matters and how you can get involved.

Why fitness matters

It’s important to maintain your fitness as much as possible – you can start slowly and build up over time. For people living with a disability, there are ways and means of getting your fitness fix, so let’s take a look at just why exercising is important.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regular exercise can be of huge benefit, including:

  • Improving stamina and muscle strength – this may really help with some forms of disability.
  • When we exercise, the brain releases endorphins that delivers a feel-good high. This can help ease anxiety and depression, and additionally, lift your mood.
  • Exercising in a group is a great way to try something different, meet new people and become part of the community.
  • You’ll gain the ability to maintain a higher level of independence, sense of freedom and quality of life.
  • Exercise can control joint swelling, and help alleviate pain in the process.

How do you start an exercise regime?

For starters, it’s important that you let your doctor, physiotherapist or health care provider, as well as your support team, know that you have plans to start a regular exercise pattern. Most likely, they’ll be very supportive of your efforts, but he or she will talk to you about finding ways to exercise which will suit your individual needs and disability. You can also talk to your family and friends so that they can cheer you on as you get active – maybe they’ll even join you!

There are many forms of exercise that you can try, but they can generally be broken down into three categories.

Cardiovascular exercise, which includes jogging and swimming, improves the overall well-being of your heart, blood flow and lungs. Strength training is exactly as it sounds – it will build your muscles and make you stronger, as well as improving your endurance, so you’ll be able to do things for longer! This type generally involves the lifting of weights, in some shape or form. Finally, flexibility exercises will help your body to become more limber, with a wider range of motion in the joints – yoga is a good example this type of exercise.

Remember to always talk to your doctor, physio or health care provider about how different exercises can be adjusted to suit you. For example, most yoga positions can be modified depending on your physical mobility, weight, age and medical condition, upper body exercises can often be done from a seating position, and specialised equipment may be available such as for those who use a wheelchair.

Exercise also doesn’t need to be working out in a gym, and different people will enjoy different activities. What is traditionally seen as exercise may not be the right fit for you. This is the time to get creative. Think about other ways you can get active such as playing video games such as Wii Fit. Another good idea is to incorporate more activity into your everyday life such as gardening, cleaning, getting out and about on the weekends, and taking the stairs when possible.

You could also look at joining a gym or sports team. Though it may seem a little intimidating at first, you’ll find that these organisations are very friendly and accommodating, and can help you to become more independent, meet new friends and have new experiences. Additionally, if you need support to connect with these groups, get in touch with our House with No Steps team who can link you with contacts and point you in the right direction!

Finding support to get active

If you need further support to get active, disability service providers such as House with No Steps offer sports and recreations programs. There’s plenty of fun and energetic activities to choose from – just tell us what you’re interested in, and we’ll support you to make it happen.

To help you achieve your exercise goals, you may also be eligible for funding such as through the NDIS.

As soon as you get started, you’ll begin to feel the benefits of a good exercise – and any type of exercise can help, physically, mentally and even emotionally.


Find out more about our Community, Social and Recreation services for people with a disability.