Variety (in Physical Activity) is the Spice of Life!
by Dot Nary
|Dorothy E. Nary, M.A., NIH Doctoral Trainee, The University of Kansas Gerontology Center|
However, for many people with disabilities, particularly those involving mobility limitations, this variety can be more difficult to achieve. Access to wheelchair sports programs may be limited or unavailable. Equipment that accommodates us, such as stationary arm cycles, is often unavailable in fitness centers and too expensive to purchase on our own. Accessible fitness programming, such as aerobics classes, is rarely, if at all, available in most communities. And we cannot simply stop in the local bike shop and try out the latest mountain bike of our dreams. Most bike shops don't carry hand cycles, and if they do, the typical price is way above the means of many people with disabilities. Also, even the most dedicated swimmer may need to stay out of the water for a while if a pressure ulcer occurs.
This leads me to ask: How can we facilitate multiple options for physical activity for people with disabilities, in order to keep it interesting and accommodate different seasons and functional levels that may fluctuate? There is no single answer to this question--just as people with disabilities are unique regarding their preferences and needs, so will the answer vary according to individuals and their situations. However, as we seek ways to increase the number of people with disabilities who regularly engage in physical activity, we should recognize the importance of facilitating opportunities for multiple activities so that reliance on a limited range of options doesn't nip enthusiasm for a physically active lifestyle in the bud.
Here are some ideas that might bring us closer to this goal of providing a variety of physical activity options for everyone:
- Recreational equipment loan programs. At a state park in Rhode Island, wheelchair users can borrow a hand cycle to enjoy a ride along the bay on a paved trail; what an incentive to engage in physical activity!
- Tax deductions, credits, or insurance coverage for equipment that contributes to health through increased physical activity. Reducing the cost of these items could increase affordability and access to accessible equipment.
- Adaptive aerobic video loans. Being able to borrow or rent seated exercise videos at the local library or video store could add variety to a home exercise program.
- Increased exhibitions of adaptive sports. Many people appreciate an opportunity to try something new. More programs facilitating these opportunities are needed to increase knowledge, stimulate interest, and spark new programs.
These are just a few ideas to get us all thinking about ways that we can increase physical activity options for people with disabilities in our own communities. If, indeed, 'variety is the spice of life,' how can we work to ensure that variety in physical activity is equally available to all?