Fitness and Disability

Fitness and Disability

Physical fitness and athletic achievement are not limited to the able-bodied. People with disabilities can also attain high levels of fitness and performance. Elite athletes compete in the Paralympics, the premier event for athletes with disabilities that is held in the same year and city as the Olympics. The performance of these skilled athletes makes it clear that people with disabilities can be active, healthy, and extraordinarily fit. Just like able-bodied athletes, athletes with disabilities strive for excellence and can serve as role models,

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 54 million Americans have some type of chronic disability. Some disabilities are the result of injury, such as spinal cord injuries sustained in car crashes or war. Other disabilities result from illness, such as the blindness that sometimes occurs as a complication of diabetes or the joint stiffness that accompanies arthritis. And some disabilities are present at birth, as in the case of congenital limb deformities or cerebral palsy.

Exercise and physical activity are as important for people with disabilities as for able-bodied individuals if not more important. Being active helps prevent secondary conditions that may result from prolonged inactivity, such as circulatory or muscular problems, Currently, about 19% of people with disabilities engage in regular moderate-intensity activity.

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People with disabilities don’t have to be elite athletes to participate in sports and lead an active life. Some health clubs, fitness centers, city recreation centers, and universities offer activities and events geared for people of all ages and types of disabilities, They may have modified aerobics classes, special weight training machines, classes for mild exercise in warm water, and other activities adapted for people with disabilities, Popular sports and recreational activities include adapted horseback riding, golf, swimming, and skiing, Competitive sports are also available for example, there are wheelchair versions of billiards, tennis, weight lifting, hockey, and basketball, as well as sports for people with hearing, visual, or mental impairments. For those who prefer to get their exercise at home, special videos are geared to individuals who use wheelchairs or who have arthritis, hearing impairments, metabolic diseases, or many other disabilities.

In January of 2013, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights issued guidelines for providing equal opportunities for sports and exercise to students with disabilities, Schools and universities must make reasonable modifications to insure that students with disabilities have equal access to sports and physical education,

If you have a disability and want to be more active, check with your physician about what’s appropriate for you. Call your local community center, university, YMCA/YWCA, hospital, independent living center, or fitness center to locate facilities. Look for a facility with experienced personnel and appropriate adaptive equipment. For specialized videos, check with hospitals and health associations that address specific disabilities, such as the Arthritis Foundation, trained distance runner. Beginners should start at the lower end of the fitness benefit zone; fitter individuals will make more rapid gains by exercising at the higher end of the fitness benefit zone. Progressive overload is critical. Exercising at the same intensity every training session will maintain fitness but will not increase it because the training stress is below the threshold required to produce adaptation. Fitness increases only if the volume and intensity of workouts increase.

The amount of overload needed to maintain or improve a particular level of fitness for a particular fitness component is determined through four dimensions, represented by the acronym FITT:

The FITT principle to exercise programs for cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength and endurance, and flexibility, respectively.

Frequency Developing fitness requires regular exercise. Optimum exercise frequency, expressed in number of days per week, varies with the component being developed and the individual’s fitness goals. For most people, a frequency of three to five days per week for cardiorespiratory endurance exercise and two or more days per week for resistance and flexibility training are appropriate for a general fitness program.

Progressive overload is important because fitness increases only when the volume and intensity of exercise increase, To put it simply, the body adapts to overload by becoming more fit,

An important consideration in determining appropriate exercise frequency is recovery time. The amount of time required to recover from exercise is highly individual and depends on factors such as training experience, age, and intensity of training. For example, 24 hours of rest between highly intense workouts involving heavy weights or track sprints is not enough recovery time for safe and effective training in most cases. Intense workouts need to be spaced out during the week to allow for sufficient recovery time. On the other hand, you can exercise every day if your program consists of moderate-intensity walking or cycling. Learn to “listen to your body” to get enough rest between workouts. Chapters 3-5 provide more detailed information about training techniques and recovery periods for workouts focused on different fitness components.

Intensity Fitness benefits occur when a person exercises harder than his or her normal level of activity. The appropriate exercise intensity varies with each fitness component. To develop cardiorespiratory endurance, for example, you must raise your heart rate above normal. To develop muscular strength, you must lift a heavier weight than normal. To develop flexibility, you must stretch muscles beyond their normal length.

Time (Duration) Fitness benefits occur when you exercise for an extended period of time. For cardiorespiratory endurance exercise, 20-60 minutes per exercise session is recommended. Exercise can take place in a single session or in several sessions of 10 or more minutes. The greater the intensity of exercise, the less time needed to obtain fitness benefits. For high-intensity exercise, such as running, 20-30 minutes is appropriate. For moderate-intensity exercise, such as walking, 45-60 minutes may be needed. High-intensity exercise poses a greater risk of injury than low-intensity exercise, so if you are a nonathletic adult, it’s best to first emphasize low- to moderate-intensity activity of longer duration.

To build muscular strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility, similar amounts of time are advisable, but training for these health components is more commonly organized in terms of a specific number of repetitions of a particular exercise. For resistance training, for example, a recommended program includes one or more sets of 8-12 repetitions of 8-10 different exercises that work the major muscle groups. Older adults should do 10-15 repetitions per set.

Type (Mode of Activity) The type of exercise in which you should engage varies with each fitness component and with your personal fitness goals. To develop cardiorespiratory endurance, you need to engage in continuous activities involving large-muscle groups walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming, for example. Resistance exercises develop muscular strength and endurance, while stretching exercises build flexibility. The frequency, intensity, and time of the exercise will be different for each type of activity. (See pp. 38-41 for more on choosing appropriate activities for your fitness program.)

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