How to help yourself: the benefits of being more active
The Benefits of Physical Activity
Maintaining physical fitness such as aerobic fitness and muscle strength may help to slow the deterioration in mobility.
Public Health England’s review of physical activity for general health benefits for disabled adults evidenced that being physically active has enormous benefits for your physical and mental health. However, disabled people are twice as likely to be inactive when compared to non-disabled people.
Regular exercise helps improve quality of life and reduces risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure osteoporosis, several cancers arthritis and back pain.
Improved wellbeing benefits also include: Increased energy and fitness; Relief of stress, anxiety, anger, and depression; increased happiness; improved sleep; and opportunities to decrease isolation and loneliness.
For an adult with Cerebral Palsy, maintaining activity levels is particularly important for reducing the risk of deconditioning, maintaining muscle strength and flexibility, helping retain the ability to do daily activities and can be beneficial for pain and fatigue management.
Maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding obesity is especially important for adults with Cerebral Palsy to reduce the the strain on already stressed joints and muscles.
How much physical activity is good for you?
It is recommended that disabled adults should do between 120 and 180 minutes of physical activity at a moderate to vigorous intensity plus do 2 sets of challenging strength and balance exercises twice per week. (link to Public Health England 2018 review)
People with cerebral palsy use up to twice as much energy as people without cerebral palsy to walk. Performing any activity as part of daily life can therefore be considered intense exercise for people with cerebral palsy.
It’s important to remember that increasing your current physical activity level by a small amount and replacing sedentary behaviours such as sitting with standing or light activity can have benefits. Some people may not be able to achieve the recommended levels because of the impact of cerebral palsy on their ability to do activity or because of their current fitness level. Doing less than this can still have benefits, particularly if your current level of fitness is low, so don’t be disheartened if you can’t reach these levels.
How to exercise?
Participation in exercise programmes such as progressive strength training programmes and aerobic exercise programme programmes are important for general physical and mental health as well as maintaining fitness.
For people who find it difficult to participate in or access structured exercise programmes being more physically active, for example by taking more steps each day, standing for short period of times, self-propelling in a wheelchair, may be as beneficial as structured exercise.
Aiming to maintain how much activity you perform is itself a big achievement. For some people, maintaining current levels of physical activity can be an important goal and should be acknowledged as a success.
How can I be more active?
think activity rather than exercise
- Move to another chair every 15 minutes whilst watching TV
- Get up to make tea during the adverts
- Stand rather than sit when reading documents at workOrthopaedic issues
- Plan your workload so you have to move around every 30 minutes
- Walk around your couch during the TV adverts
- Schedule regular bathroom breaks when you’re sitting at a computer or TV
- Increase the number of wheelchair transfers you perform in a day
How can you increase your physical activity in a safe way?
- Start low-and-go-slow! This means that you should start from where you are at the moment and make any changes gradually
- Do what you enjoy. You may need to try several different types of activities to find one that you like doing
- Start by increasing the amount of activities that you already do, like walking, rather than taking up new activities
- Gradually increase the amount of physical activity that you do and the intensity of physical activity. For steps you take each day and also walk at a quicker speed.
- Wear sturdy shoes or trainers when you carry out physical activity. Use any walking aids that you need to keep yourself steady
- It is normal for your body to ache after doing activity. However if you find that you ache a lot after doing activity, you may have done too much too quickly. Rest for a day and then try doing slightly less next time
- Stop before you get overly tired (don’t carry on until you are exhausted). Take breaks
- Alternate heavier physical exercise with more moderate or gentle activity on the following day
- Break the activity down into smaller stages (e.g. 5-10 minutes at a time) if you need to
- Avoid vigorous activity if you are unwell, injured or fatigued, but you can still try to do some form of movement, even standing intermittently