Finding exercise that works for you is the key to ensuring you stick with a regime. Natalie Brunzel speaks about her personal experience as a wheelchair user who has had the opportunity of trying various types of exercise before settling on the one that works for her.
It is hard enough to keep motivated to exercise during summer but the moment the cold weather draws in the drive to maintain fitness can all but disappear. However, it is vital for people to keep moving. Especially if you are like me and have limited mobility, then maintaining what you have is even more important. Luckily, there are a few ways in which you can keep fit and healthy. Some exercises you can even do in the comfort of your own home.
In the past, I have tried Pilates, Adaptive Yoga, Hydrotherapy and Zumba. Of all these, the most disastrous was Zumba as I did not possess the upper body strength to do the movements, not to mention my inability to do anything in time to the music. I am only grateful that this exercise attempt was not caught on camera. However, if you enjoy moving to music and have better coordination than me, then you would probably love this form of exercise. It is usually readily accessible; many community halls hold these classes, and it is a great way to connect with people in your area. Check your Community Notice Board for information on classes near you.
Pilates is a great form of exercise. However, the expense of it is what eventually put it out of reach for me. The equipment is easily adaptable to accommodate any level of ability. I used to have individual classes using a piece of equipment called the reformer. It utilises your own body weight to provide resistance and focuses on strengthening your core. If you are looking for a great way to enhance balance and stability, then this form of exercise works wonders. It can prevent falls and help your overall wellbeing. There are many gyms that offer Pilates; the key is to finding one that is accessible. Make sure you discuss with your trainer the main benefits you are seeking from this form of exercise.
Adaptive yoga is a lesser-known form of yoga, designed to make yoga accessible to everyone regardless of ability. There are classes springing up around the country enabling countless individuals to make yoga their chosen form of exercise. If you enjoy a gentler form of exercise that includes meditation, then this could be just what you are looking for. The movements are adapted to the individuals in the class and can be done either sitting, standing or lying. It’s a soothing form of exercise that wouldn’t suit those who are looking for a more energetic release.
Hydrotherapy is always my favourite. It enables me to be weightless and to have more movement than I do on land. There are now many public pools that are accessible so check with your local swimming pool. In Auckland, AUT offers hydrotherapy at a discounted rate. Students take the classes and design programmes specifically for you. Not to mention the pool is a warm 35 degrees Celsius. The hardest part is making myself get out of the lovely warm water.
If leaving home to do exercise is difficult, there are various options that you can do at home. A physio could write you a workout programme that could then be completed either by yourself or with the help of a support worker. This may include stretches, massage to stimulate circulation, and using everyday items around your house to act as weights, e.g. a can of beans.
One of my friends sets himself the target of walking a marathon every month. By this, he means he walks a kilometre every day until he has reached the equivalent of a marathon. It’s a way to maintain his focus, and it gets him out of the house on days he doesn’t feel like it.
For me, the most important aspects of successfully maintaining an exercise routine are having fun and making time to do it regularly. I find that if I have a set routine, with times and days booked for exercise, then I am more likely to do it. This is also important as I require a support person/caregiver to help me, either by driving me to the appointment or physically helping me to complete the exercises.
Finding the right person to do exercises with is, therefore, an important part. It doesn’t simply require someone who can drive or physically help me, but someone who understands its importance and continues to keep me motivated.