Approximately 20% of the U.S. population has some sort of disability. While there are many degrees of disabilities both physical and mental, studies show that one major constant is that as a whole, people with disabilities are less fit than the rest of the population. While this may not seem surprising based on the adversities that people with disabilities face on a daily basis, this also does not negate the need to live a healthy lifestyle. The truth is that in many ways, it is almost more important for members of the populace with disabilities to become fit, trim, and healthy, because doing so can help them to compensate for the problems that plague their body or mind, boost their morale, and help them to function in society at a level that would have been unattainable before.
The real question is, with so much to gain, why is it that the majority of disabled people remain unfit and unhealthy?
There are a lot of factors that come into play regarding disabilities and fitness here. For people with physical disabilities, there will always be some obvious hurdles to overcome. For instance, someone in a wheelchair will need a completely different workout regimen than someone who can walk. Knowing that the road is a harder one can make someone with a disability discouraged from even trying, especially when there is little or no support. Support (or lack thereof) also plays a huge role in preventing people with mental disabilities from making a lifestyle change. No one likes to be ridiculed or have their accomplishments written off and without proper motivation, it becomes almost infinitely difficult to find the inner strength, means, and motivation to carry out a lifestyle change to the fullest extent.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks people face is not getting started in the first place. And this is never more true than in the domain of fitness and health. People with bad backs, bad knees or severe weight issues, can easily find an excuse to do nothing.
So here are some tips and techniques you can borrow from me to get into a new dance.
First, you need to have a clear vision of what you want to look like in your head. So putting together a ‘vision board’ is a great idea. Start by cutting some photos out of magazines or maybe you have an old photo of you when you weighed a lot less. Anyway, these images need to be front and center in your mind every day.
Next, you must realize that getting into great shape is a ‘life time objective’ and so you need to look at it on a monthly and yearly basis. That is, the goal should be to develop habits that will last a lifetime, not to go to the gym and pound it for a week.
A little bit at a time is the key to success!
Let’s say you want to become a jogger again, but you can only walk about 10 minutes comfortably. Great! Do that and then build on it.
I regularly run 8-10 miles but I didn’t start there, I built up to it over many years. I built up my physical engine.
You can do the same thing!
Here’s how to do it, and this approach will work with any form of exercise. Walk every day for 10 minutes at an easy pace. EVERY DAY! Make it easy on yourself, don’t push it, but make certain that you walk your 10 minutes.
IMPORTANT! Write it down in a log! Don’t forget.
After 30 days, you will be ready to up the ante to 11 minutes at an easy pace.
After 30 days, up the ante again by 10 % and keep this progression going.
At the end of year one you will be walking about 35 minutes EVERY DAY! And more importantly you will be developing rigor in your life and you will be building your physical engine. Two years of this activity and you can see how a lifetime of fitness can be yours. It’s not hard to do.
The key is to do it EVERY DAY rain, snow or shine. You will see the results over time, but you need to be patient.
Dan Molloy, 63, is a member of Team USA Triathlon. He finished in 6th place in the World Triathlon Championships in 2011 in Beijing China. He started the sport of triathlon at the age of 55 and used this very approach to become one of the best in the world in his age group, after losing 30 lbs.