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5 Tips to Start Your Fitness Journey with Limited Mobility, Injuries, or Disabilities

Physical fitness is not something that should be limited to those without disabilities or limitations. Our health dictates nearly every aspect of our lives, from simply getting a good night's sleep to moving throughout our day without pain. Staying healthy is essential, and we can still be healthy and fit despite our limitations. You can start your fitness journey with the right action plan regardless of your disabilities or limitations. Here are five tips to get you started.

👟 Addressing your Limitations

To start things off, let's take an honest assessment of our current situation. If limited mobility or a serious injury has taken you out of the game with fitness for a while, let's address it.

As a group fitness coach seeing many different faces and varying fitness abilities, I can tell you that a person is likely to resist getting professional help when injured. Instead, they will often try and push through whatever is going on and hope things will get better. If this sounds like you, you've got a 50/50 shot of being right. Either you can work through the injury, or it's a serious matter that will only worsen if not addressed with professional help first.

Regardless of your self-assessment results, it's essential to understand that staying active is still important. This assessment helps us lay the groundwork for a safe and practical experience. I always say, it's better to be safe than sorry. Just because you get an opinion on your limitation or injury doesn't mean you need to take it.

✍️ Preparing For your Fitness Journey

"Before anything else, preparation is the key to success." - Alexander Graham Bell.

Properly preparing for your new physical fitness endeavors is crucial for optimal results. These steps will set you up to accomplish goals and overcome any obstacles you may face along the way.

Do An Equipment Check

Big weights, big results, right? Not always! Getting started with what is available is always what I recommend. But if you don't have anything, that is completely fine too! Getting started with body weight could be the best workout for people with limited mobility or disabilities.

Create An Inviting Workout Space

A clear workspace is a happy workspace; the same goes for working out! We all remember seeing those old treadmills or ellipticals that would end up being expensive coat hangers. To start using the thing would require a massive wardrobe cleanup. Keeping a space clear of actual and mental clutter leads to a more inviting fitness atmosphere. It could be a small area in your living room or a spare office. Set the scene for your presence, and results will follow.

🔥 It's Time to Exercise

We've taken proper protocols to assess and address our limitations and prepared for our fitness journey. Now it's time to embark on our next step.

Getting started with fitness can be overwhelming to begin with, no doubt about that. But when you start up with a pre-existing limitation or disability, the process can be much more intimidating. So I want to congratulate you for embarking on this step. I know it's not easy, but I hope today's workout will jump-start a great road to success and prove that you have the strength to achieve what you set your mind to.

Today's modified workout consists of slower-paced movements designed to allow progress at any level. We will provide several options for many exercises if you cannot complete one. It's crucial to make this workout your own.

Let's look back to our self-assessment. Suppose your limitation or injury may get worse with activity. In that case, you may opt to work on just the upper body movements or the lower body movements (if your injury pertains to the lower or upper body, respectively). If an exercise causes pain when being conducted, it's wise to hold off and give the next one a go. There's a critical difference between being in pain and muscle soreness.

😀 Recovering From Your Routine

With a challenging workout comes proper recovery. When starting any new physical fitness activity or adding more movement into your daily routine, recovery will be critical to keeping muscle soreness and fatigue manageable.

Previously, I mentioned that getting away without any equipment for your workout was no problem at all. That still rings true. However, if you have $10-15 in the self-care budget, I highly recommend purchasing a PT Band.

Physical Therapy Bands, or PT Bands, are elastic bands commonly used to rehabilitate from injuries and for general strength training. For our specific case, when limited mobility or disabilities hinder your range of motion, a PT Band can drastically aid in getting you into proper stretching positions.

Below are our top 5 recommended low-impact beginner stretches. Some stretches use a PT Band, and others use only your body weight. It's important to note that a PT Band will not guarantee a better stretch, so if you don't have one, no worries! They will only aid in certain positions where lack of mobility is an issue for you.

Trapezius Neck Stretch

In a seated position, relax your shoulders, and bring your ear toward one shoulder. Add gentle downward pressure to your head with your hand to increase the stretch.

Shoulder Cross-Arm Stretch

Keeping your arm as straight as possible, bring it across the chest and as close to your chest as you can. Using your free arm, apply gentle pressure towards the arm across the chest, and hold the position.

Seated Hamstring Stretch

Sit toward the end of a chair with one leg extended out and your back straight. Keeping your posture as strict as you can and your hips in line, slowly lower your upper body down. Once you feel tension behind your extended leg (your hamstrings), hold the position.

Band Hip Abduction

Along with the glutes, this strengthening movement aims to strengthen the hip flexors. With a band around your ankles, laterally lift your leg to shin level, and control the movement back down. Keep your upper body still during the movement.

Band Pull Aparts

Hold the band horizontally in front of you with your hands roughly shoulder-width apart. Stretch the band apart laterally while keeping an upright posture. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and stick your chest out as you complete the movement.

🎯 Building Habits & Seeing Progress

As is the case with any other habit in life, it takes a lot of self-discipline and time until your new routine becomes second nature. There is no way to speed up the habit-building process. Throughout these next weeks of new challenges, remember that regardless of the struggle to get your body going, you are doing a good thing for your long-term health.

Akin to habit building, progress takes time. So you have to trust the process and be patient.

When starting a new routine in hopes of curing an injury, building back from limited mobility, or seeing overall progress in general, it's easy to get discouraged when results aren't immediate. But it's important to remember that the struggles and limitations holding you back have been there for more than a few days. And it will take you more than a few days, and more than a few weeks, to gradually start to feel stronger and healthier.

Now that you have your template, it's time to take action. Take your self-assessment, prepare for the journey, and you will be well on your way to a more energized, mobile, and confident you.

This post was originally written for Nivati, the employee mental health platform. You can read the blog post on the Nivati blog here.


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