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Achieve fitness despite a disability

12:00am | & Health

A recent story in the news described how a woman had reduced her body weight from 14 stone to just 9st 10lb, and improved her fitness in the process.

Nothing remarkable in that, you might think. But what was remarkable in this case was that the woman has Thalidomide related disabilities.

Many fully able bodied people find it hard to persuade themselves to go for a swim or get to the gym, but the barriers if you are disabled are not just psychological, they are also physical. Getting into a swimming pool in itself is no mean feat if you are disabled.

The logistics are more complex, so a spontaneous session at the pool or gym may be out of the question, but with some careful planning you should be able to find the facilities and support you need. 

An Adapted Swimming Pool For Disability

Many gyms are accessible for wheelchair users and people with other disabilities, but much of the standard equipment, such as cross trainers and rowing machines may simply not be suitable for disabled customers. If you feel you don't know where to start, find a personal trainer who can help.

The English Federation of Disability Sport has its own accreditation scheme, the Inclusive Fitness Initiative (IFI), with an IFI mark awarded for sports and leisure centres which provide good facilities for disabled customers, such as ramps or stairlifts.

The scheme has several levels of accreditation, ranging from those working on improving facilities to those where services and facilities are considered to be excellent. If you're fortunate enough to live near to a gym with an excellent IFI mark, you will find it has a high standard of facilities, access and staff training as well as marketing to disabled people to raise awareness of the facilities available.

If you are unable to or prefer not to go to a leisure centre or health club, look into the types of equipment available for exercising at home. Pedal exercisers are often compact and could easily fit in your home. For upper body strength, you might use a hand cycle or exercise with a resistance band.

Clearly for some people, the disabilities are so severe that none of this is possible. However, if there are any opportunities for exercise, the benefits are considerable. Your overall health will improve with a higher level of fitness, and in some cases from the associated weight loss. If you're in need of inspiration, just think back to the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, where dedicated athletes with all sorts of disabilities were able to perform at astonishingly high standards.

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