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Fitness for All

Exercise is important for your physical health and wellbeing and should be a staple part of everyone’s life. But older people and those with a disability 50 percent less likely to get involved in exercise, compared to younger or non-disabled people, according to research from Sport England

Of course, there can be some extra barriers to cross, but those with a disability and older adults are demographics that can benefit most from taking up regular exercise! Being active can help to reduce day-to-day issues such as strains, muscle wastage and problems with balance.

Research suggests that exercise for the disabled is even more important than for those without disability. The reason behind this is the higher rates of factors such as obesity and diabetes, which have been recorded as being 66% more likely for those with a registered disability, says figures from NICE.

Those with physical disabilities or age-related barriers are often perceived to live a more sedentary life with an inability to engage generally in strenuous exercise. This means that risks of the related coronary, digestive and respiratory diseases is likely to significantly increase.

The Benefits of Exercise

For older people or those living with a disability, there are ways and means of getting your fitness fix, so let’s look at why exercising is important to these groups.

Physical benefits

Regular exercise can:

Improve stamina and muscle strength – this may really help with some forms of disability.

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.

Exercising increases bone density making any falls less likely to cause fractures.

Exercise helps you to maintain your agility.

Mental Health Benefits

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.

Exercise reduces stress.

Exercising regularly helps to improve the quality of your sleep.

Exercising in a group is a great way to try something different, meet new people and become part of a community.

Helps to maintain brain function in older adults.


Older people and those living with a disability can often face isolation. Someone with any disability is far more likely to withdraw socially, which can cause a lack of engagement in meaningful activities. Exercise presents an opportunity to engage in group activities or with the social environment which can prevent isolation.

Possibly the biggest barrier which holds back older people or those living with a disability from participating in exercise, is mental: a lack of self-belief. Negative emotions about ourselves can reduce engagement, however a positive attitude towards our self can lead to new opportunities and friendships. When was the last time you tried something new? Maybe it’s time to find an exercise class you’ll love!

Challenge Yourself!

Wheelchair exercise fitness for all

Push yourself to try something new, whilst meeting like-minded people. There is an abundance of sport-specific organisations, including those for disabled angling, dancing, walking and horse riding.

Exercise doesn’t need to be working out in a gym, and different people will enjoy different activities. You can get creative! Think about other ways you can get active such as playing Wii Fit, gardening, and even cleaning.

Keep it up!

Motivation is a key part of keeping up a fitness regime. Here are some ideas to keep you going:

·             Find a friend to exercise with and motivate each other.

·             Book regular exercise sessions into your diary. Even if you do stretches at home, treat them as if you’re attending a class.

·             Being consistent is more important than cramming in as much as possible – do small, regular exercise sessions at first, then you can build up to doing more if you want to.

·             Do activities that you enjoy. If you find you don’t enjoy one activity or location, switch to another.

·             Find a coach – there are many professionals out there who have experience of fitness coaching for disabled people, or older adults.

·             Keep track of your progress using a step counter or heart rate monitor on your phone.

Finding the balance

It’s important for all people to try and create an exercise regime suited to their needs. Exercise does not necessarily mean going to the gym or running a marathon; chair-based exercises focusing on muscle strength and tone may have just as much impact on our general health and wellbeing!

Chair Based Exercises you can try:

Seated Flexibility – Stretches

To stretch your hamstrings, calf and back sit up tall on your chair.
Bring one of your feet away from your chair and straighten your leg. Place your heel on the ground and point your toes up to the ceiling. 
Whilst keeping your foot in this position, slowly reach down and try to touch your toes 
Hold this position for 10 seconds.
Complete the same exercise with the other leg.

Seated Muscular Strength and Endurance – Crunches

Sitting at the edge of your chair (you can hold onto the chair seat for extra support) lift your legs up off the ground and lean back slightly.
Bring your knees in towards your body as you breathe out.
Then push the legs outwards and straighten the legs as you breathe in (Trying to keep the legs at hip height).
Try to engage the core as much as possible.
Repeat this exercise for as many times as you can!  

These exercises can be completed any time, and almost anywhere! So, let’s all start moving and improve our health, to support a healthy future.

Bethany Ainsley is a wellness coach and founder of ActivCare Coaching, which  serves to equip professionals and carers working with vulnerable groups with techniques to improve the wellbeing of people within their care. They do this via training, support and virtual classes for organisations and individuals to improve the wellbeing of older adults by increasing their levels of physical activity.
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