Not all exercise has to be on the sports field or in the gymnasium. Although it may seem that an increased interest parasport means every disabled person is expected to be a ‘superhuman’, staying fit and healthy through exercise doesn’t have to involve vigorous training and garden sheds full of expensive, specialised equipment. 

There are plenty of ways to get out and get moving that don’t involve rules or referees. We’ve put together a selection of low impact options, both indoor and outdoor, and coupled them with some of the organisations who can help you to get active.

Low Stress: Walking & Strolling

One of the simplest forms of exercise is simply going for a walk. Whether it’s taking the dog down to the corner shop or traversing fields and country paths, there’s nothing quite like walking for a low impact, low stress form of exercise.

You’ll burn around 75 calories simply by walking at two miles per hour for 30 minutes, all the while reducing your risk of Type 2 diabetes by 60%. Not only that, regular walks can also reduce the risk of certain cancers by 20% and it also releases endorphins which reduce stress and anxiety.

Of course, walking doesn’t have to mean walking. The health benefits of simply being outdoors and active in terms of upper body strength, boosting your immune system and even your respiratory health are numerous and wheelchair users can enjoy many of the same benefits by exercising entirely different muscle sets.

For those seeking something a little more involved, you might consider the age-old British pastime of rambling. Getting in touch with nature in the countryside may seem daunting but there are groups to help you take the first step. Disabled Ramblers are working to improve countryside accessibility and run rambles throughout England and Wales from March to October.


Non-Impact: Swimming & Cycling

One way to wipe out the effect of many physical disabilities while removing much of the risk of injury (through falls or impact) is swimming. While many disabled people may feel self-conscious about the idea of getting into a pool, the health benefits are numerous and many local councils and organisations run disability specific swimming sessions to allow disabled people to try the facilities, classes, etc on offer and see if it’s the right activity for them.

Carers and parents may also consider the sensory impact of water for children. The environment can stimulate interaction in children with emotional, behavioural and communication disorders and conditions such as autism. Fundamentally of course, swimming tones your muscles, builds your core strength and helps to maintain a healthy heart and lungs, making it one of the most complete forms of exercise you can do.


If low impact exercise sounds like it might be for you but you’d prefer to get fit out of the water, you may wish to consider cycling. For most disabled people, of course, it’s not a case of simply hopping on a pushbike, but there are a number of charities and non-profit organisations who offer taster sessions for people who are interested in getting on their bike, in whatever form it may take.

Different kinds of physical disability require different kinds of cycles and it is best to seek expert advice before deciding on an approach but the benefits of cycling are clear. It promotes improved joint mobility, stronger bones, improved coordination and the all-important toning of muscles.


Something Different: Ballroom Dancing

If you think walking, swimming and cycling might be a bit vanilla for you and you like a challenge then why not try your hand at dancing? Wheelchair Dance Sport Association UK offer a number of fantastic classes and sessions to get you started and support you in disciplines ranging from their mainstay, ballroom, to modern styles such as zumba, Bollywood or even street dance.

In terms of a social, enjoyable form of exercise which has the option of sporting endeavour further down the line, look no further.


Targets In Mind

Most people take up exercise with some kind of target in mind and these can be a great way to keep you motivated and active. Too many New Year’s resolutions have fallen by the wayside with people making them because they feel they should, so too with deciding to exercise.

All of the ideas mentioned here, and a great many others, have both mental and physical health benefits. The endorphins released through regular exercise can help to relieve stress and boost your mood which, while it may not solve all of the world’s problems, can make things seem a little brighter.

The overriding reason which people give for starting exercise is to lose weight and this can be an excellent motivator in itself but don’t overlook the benefits of having a level of physical fitness beyond any limitations caused by your disability. Regular exercise can reduce your risk of a wide variety of diseases (cancer included) and ensures your cardiovascular and respiratory health is at its peak, all of which can be important factors in both day-to-day life and should you become ill.

Whatever your motivation for exercising is, there can be no doubt that a lot can be achieved with just a little physical exertion and a few simple changes to the daily routine. Of course, given the nature of disability, these tips may not work for everyone, but once you find something that does, be sure to stick at it to gain the maximum benefit.