Tag Archives: exercise

Disabled people aren’t delicate! Why we’re getting fit this #Steptember

Guest post from Kris Saunders-Stowe of Wheely Good Fitness, who runs exercise classes for both disabled and non-disabled people in Herefordshire. He’s helping us promote Steptember, the fun fitness challenge where you can raise money for Scope.DSC_0153

For some people exercise is a dirty word, conjuring up images of sweaty, unfriendly gyms, intimidating perfect physiques and lots of hard work, sweat and tears. This can be true! However, it’s just one side of the fitness world, and not at all reflective of what it’s all about.

Every movement we perform in daily life, from carrying shopping and lifting a wheelchair into the car to opening a door or cleaning our teeth, is exercise.

And the definition of success is different for every person – one person’s desire to lift a 40kg dumb-bell is just as valid as another person’s desire to lift and hold their cup of morning coffee.

Step away from the stereotyped image of exercise, and you see that it’s about looking after your body to ensure that it is healthy and able to support you in your daily life.

Disability and fitness

Disability and exercise aren’t usually seen as going hand in hand. Yet for disabled people, getting the right exercise is all-important – otherwise, you’ll lose strength and flexibility and become less and less active.Wheelchair fitness class taking place

Another reason for the negativity around exercise and disability is one forced upon us by society. Disabled people are delicate, we should be careful, we’re not allowed to do this and that. Health and safety!

We only have to look at Paralympics to see that that’s not true. But lots of disabled people can relate to being turned away from a gym. Or they’re only allowed to take part in an over-70s class or similar (which is silly in itself – older people resent being pigeon-holed by their years rather than their abilities!).

At Wheely Good Fitness, we like to challenge these preconceptions by running modern, proactive and high energy classes for people of varying abilities.

We do this because there’s a severe lack of suitable multi-ability classes out there – classes where disabled people actively take part with the group and have the same experience as the rest. There is a huge need for leisure facilities to start making disability fitness an integral part of their programmes.

Get involved

Whether you’re disabled or not, we’re all the same – our muscles need maintaining, our hearts need looking after, our minds need challenging and our weight managing. I want to encourage more people to take part in exercise on any level, and that’s why I and some of my clients are supporting Steptember.

Man lifting weights while sitting in a wheelchair, another man with a prosthetic leg behind him
Kris with disabled model Jack Eyres, who’s also supporting Steptember

This month of activity is about increasing the amount of physical activity you do, in whatever way you prefer, whilst also raising money for Scope. You might want to take 10,000 steps a day, or the equivalent using a wheelchair, but there are dozens of other activities that also count.

We’re also releasing our first ever Wheel-Fit home exercise DVD for Steptember, with £1 from every copy sold going to Scope.

Remember, we all have something we can do to get fit – and we can all improve our abilities, mood, energy levels and fitness through exercise. Whether you’re lifting dumbbells or tins of beans, doing a marathon or wheeling to your front door and back, it all makes a difference!

Sign up for Steptember to get fit this autumn – and raise money for Scope! You can do it alone or with friends or colleagues.

Walking for wellbeing

In September we’re encouraging people to get active and take part in our Steptember event! The event may be called Steptember, but walking isn’t the only way to reach your daily step count. You can run, wheel, cycle, swim or even dance your way to glory. If you use a wheelchair, here’s some inspiration for you.

Guest post from Bonnie Friend, writer for Walk magazine

There is an awful lot in the news at the moment on the power of walking for improved health. It’s a great way to lose weight, gentle on the joints, and gets you out into the fresh air.

What is sometimes overlooked though is the impact that it can have on psychological wellbeing, and speaking to members of the Ramblers and Disabled Ramblers, the potency of that becomes a striking reality.

Walk magazine spoke to one lady who was able to overcome Post Traumatic Stress Disorder through walking and a man who, after 20 years suffering with depression, declared that the best antidote he has found is to garner the courage to head out for a stroll along the Pennine Way.

It is not to say that walking is going to be the complete answer to every problem, but in a world where we struggle to find solutions to complex issues, it is reassuring to know that something as simple as a walk can provide untold comfort.

Where this becomes a whole lot trickier however, is where mobility poses an extra obstacle, and this is what the people at Disabled Ramblers have been working tirelessly to rectify.

There are thousands of miles of tracks and footpaths around the UK, and only a fraction of them are currently as accessible as they could be. Predominantly in national parks such as the Malvern Hills.

John Cuthbertson, Director of Disabled Ramblers is passionate about initiatives that look to remove or find alternatives to manmade barriers such as steps, stiles and gates that limit accessibility for anyone with a disability.

Another part of their work sees the categorization of walking routes for their accessibility level, and the organization of around 50 nationwide group walks each year. They have a number of specialised mobility scooters (Trampers) available to borrow and group walks see around 20-30 people participating each time alongside 15-25 carers. Details are carefully adhered to in order to make the experience as easy as possible for anyone wanting to join, such as the inclusion of a mobile toilet transported on a trailer.

The upshot of this careful organisation is something that has an indisputably positive outcome. “We have a guy with Motor Neurone Disease who joins us and is adamant that the walks have extended his lifespan,” says John, continuing: “the big things that people experience are good company, meeting like-minded individuals, and a big change in both psychological and physical wellbeing as a result of being able to get out into their beloved countryside.”

As one walker said, “when I reach somewhere beautiful and look around I can’t help but think it would make anyone smile.” If nothing else, that seems like a pretty perfect reason to give it a try.

Has this inspired you? Sign up to Steptember and get out there to explore! 

Five wheelchair exercises you can try at home

We’ve asked Kris, founder of Wheely Good Fitness, to do a guest blog for us on his top five stretch exercises to help increase flexibility and movement.

Kris is taking part in the Virgin London Marathon 2016 – you can sponsor him online.

For those of us new to exercise or restricted by the side effects of disability and health conditions, starting can be extremely daunting. Many of us will be familiar with the saying ‘use it or lose it.’ So it’s important to try as much as possible to keep what we have and improve where we can, to prevent additional health problems.

One of the first things we can lose is our flexibility. Reduced flexibility can restrict our movements, causing stiffness and aches.  Performing stretches on a regular basis can help maintain and improve flexibility, and can easily be made a part of your daily routine.

Here are five important upper body stretches that can be done at home – you can sit either in your wheelchair or on any chair in your house. For all of them, remember to sit upright, with belly button pulled in tight, feet hip-width apart (if your wheelchair allows it).

Chest Stretch

  • Shoulders down
  • Take the arms out to the side of the body
  • Palms facing forward
  • Arms at shoulder heightMan in wheelchair performing chest exercise with arms outstretched
  1. Breathe normally throughout, with your head facing forwards.
  2. Keep your shoulders relaxed. Bring your arms slowly together in front of your body, so your palms touch.
  3. Keep them straight and at the same height as your shoulders.
  4. Slowly take the arms out to the side, with palms facing forwards, until you can feel a stretch across your chest.
  5. Try to hold the position for up to 10 seconds.

Back stretch

  • Shoulders relaxed
  • Take the arms forward slightly, rounding the back
  • Head tilted forward
  • Arms out straightMan in wheelchair performing back stretch, with arms stretched forward and head down
  1. Keep shoulders relaxed and avoid rolling them forward as you move into the stretch.
  2. Bring your arms in front of your body, keeping them straight, palms facing down.
  3. Imagine there’s a rope tied around your wrists, pulling you forward, so you can keep extending your arms.
  4. Allow your lower back to round a little and tilt your head down – you should feel a stretch through the lower and middle part of your back.
  5. Breathe normally, and be aware of your balance.
  6. Try to hold the position for up to 10 seconds.

Upper body stretch

  • Take the arms out to the side of the body
  • Bring the arms up and over the head
  • Head facing forwards
  • Take the stretch up through the bodyMan in wheelchair performing upper body stretch, with arms stretched upwards
  1. Keep your shoulders relaxed, avoid lifting them up to your ears when you start the stretch.
  2. Start with your arms down by your sides, then slowly bring them out to the side (like wings), taking them as high above the head as you can. As your arms reach shoulder height, lift your chest and torso with them and try to make yourself taller.
  3. Try to hold the position for up to 10 seconds.

Oblique stretch

  • Take the arms out to the side of the body
  • Bring the arms up to shoulder height 
  • Keep upper body fixed
  • Rotate the body to the sideMan in wheelchair performing oblique stretch, with arms bent out to the sides
  1. Keep your shoulders relaxed, avoid lifting them up to your ears when you start the stretch.
  2. Start by bringing your arms out to the side of the body, elbows flexed and at shoulder height. Keeping your arms, head and upper body fixed, rotate to the side using the lower part of your back until you can feel the stretch down the sides of your body.
  3. Try to hold the position for up to 10 seconds, then switch and do the other side.
  4. Breathe normally, and try not to lean into the stretch or you won’t get the full benefit.

Hand stretch

  • Shoulders down
  • Take the arms out in front of the body
  • Palms facing down
  • Arms out straightMan in wheelchair performing hand stretch, with arms stretched out forward
  1. Keep your shoulders relaxed, avoid lifting them up to your ears when you start the stretch.
  2. Bring your arms straight forward in front of your body, palms facing down.
  3. Extend your fingers and thumbs, widening as much as possible until you feel a stretch through the palm of your hand.
  4. Try to hold the position for up to 10 seconds, then switch and do the other side.
  5. Breathe normally, and keep facing forwards.

Some of these stretches can be adapted into exercise movements that you can perform to your favourite music:

  1. Begin by moving the arms in a gentle marching movement to the beat.
  2. Once comfortable change to a similar move as you did for the chest stretch, gently taking the arms out to the side and back in front again eight times, almost like a wide clapping movement and then go back to marching again.
  3. If you feel able to continue, you can then bring in a version of the upper body stretch by taking the arms to shoulder height and down again, repeating 8 times before going back to the march.
  4. The oblique stretch can then be added in for eight moves before returning back to the march.

This short sequence will give you a little bit of an aerobic workout and you can increase how long you perform it as it becomes easier to do.  Begin gently if only for a couple of minutes depending on how challenging you find it and progress as you feel able.

Kris is taking part in the Virgin London Marathon 2016 – you can sponsor him online.

10 tips to get active with your kids this summer

The summer holidays are a great chance to practice getting more active ahead of Steptember, an inclusive event designed to get you moving more, whilst raising some money for Scope!

Here are 10 tips to get more active with your children. 

1.       Go swimming

This is a great activity for all kids, and can be very therapeutic for disabled children. If you’re lucky with the weather, an outdoor pool or Lido in the sun is even more fun!

Young woman riding a bike through a park

2.       Go on a bike ride

It’s the closest thing to flying, and even if you’ve not done it for ages, you never forget!

3.       Camp out

Even if it’s just for one night, it will mean you’re out in nature exploring together as a family, and bound to be a lot more active than when you’re at home.

Young disabled girl dancing4.      Dance off

Make a playlist of all your family’s favourite upbeat songs and then have a dance off!

5.       Fly a kite

Everyone loves a bit of kite flying. You could even make one together the day before.

6.       Walk the dog

Don’t have one? Borrow a neighbour’s or sign up to Borrow My Doggy.

Family of four - mum, dad, and two daughters, one using a wheelchair, laughing together in a forest7.       Go on a family hike

The great thing about the UK is that you’re never too far from a National Park, and a lot of them have many accessible routes and special event days too. You can make it even more exciting by planning a lovely picnic.

8.      Make a den

All kids love to make dens. Why not find some old items around the house to decorate it with, and get constructing together in the garden or local park?

Four young children racing in a garden
 

9.       Have a race

This could be as simple or complicated as you like. Egg and spoon race? Wheelchair race? Family relay race? Sack race? Whatever you fancy!

10.   Put ideas in a hat!

Can’t decide between yourselves? Each write your active idea down on some paper, pop into a hat and then let your kids pick one out. It’s a great way to avoid arguments and keep things fair!

You can also see our tips for a stress-free summer holiday, and games all children can play

Feeling ready to sign up to Steptember