Planner with the words "2018 Goals" on the wood floor with dumbbells and an apple.

Free Webinar – New Year, New You: Tips for Getting Fit with a Disability

The new year is quickly approaching which means it’s the perfect time to start thinking about setting your fitness goals for 2018!

Getting more exercise is one of the most common new year’s resolutions, and for good reason! Exercise is one of the best ways to improve both mental and physical health.

Although we all know that exercise is good for us, getting fit and staying active is easier said than done. Maintaining a regular exercise program can be particularly challenging for individuals with disabilities.  Research shows that 47% of adults with a disability get no physical activity.  

Fortunately, you don’t need to let your disability stop you from being active. I invite you to join me for a FREE 30-minute webinar, where I will show you how to overcome the challenges of exercising with a disability and get fit in 2018. 

Here is everything you need to know to join me for this exciting event!

Event Details

Webinar: New Year, New You: Tips for Getting Fit with a Disability
Date:  Wednesday, January 3, 2018
Time:  1:00 – 1:30 pm EST
Duration:  30 minutes
Presented By:  Jennifer Hobbs, MS, MBA
President & Founder, IncluFit

In this webinar, you will learn:

  • The top 3 barriers to getting fit faced by individuals with disabilities.
  • Strategies for identifying and overcoming these barriers.
  • Practical tips to help you stay on track and make 2018 your healthiest year ever!

To reserve your spot in the webinar (spaces are limited), click on the button below:

Register Now! Click Button to Register for Webinar

Or click this link to register:
https://inclufit.clickmeeting.com/224177729/register

Can’t attend the live event? No problem! A recording will be made available to all registered attendees after the live event concludes. We’ll deliver it directly to your inbox for easy access and viewing.

I hope to see you on January 3rd!

Jennifer's Signature Jennifer Hobbs

Young woman sitting on a couch with her knees hugged to her chest looking depressed.

How to Get Motivated to Exercise When You are Depressed

The holiday season is here once again!  For many, the holidays are a wonderful time of year – full of food, family, and happy memories.  However, for individuals suffering from depression and anxiety, the holidays can be a very challenging time.

As holidays approach, most people find their stress rising and their ability to cope fade away.  To add insult to injury, as we move towards winter, we are exposed to less natural light.  This can trigger seasonal affective disorder (SAD), otherwise known as the “winter blues”.  Symptoms of SAD include feelings of hopelessness, low energy, and loss of interest in activities that you typically enjoy.

Fortunately, there are ways to help you manage your depression during the holidays.  One of the best ways to combat depression is with exercise.  Some of the many positive effects of exercise on depression include:

  • Improved mood
  • Increased energy
  • Reduced stress
  • Improved concentration
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Better sleep

The good news is, you don’t need a lot of exercise to feel a difference!  Research shows that as little as one hour of exercise per week can improve mood and ease the symptoms of depression. That is less than 10 minutes of activity per day!

Sounds great, right?  Of course, anyone that has experienced depression knows that this is easier said than done.  Depression saps you of your motivation and energy, and can send you into a seemingly endless loop that sounds something like this…

I know I need to exercise because it will help my depression and make me feel better, but I can’t get moving because I’m depressed! 

These feelings of knowing that exercise can help, but feeling unable to take action can add to anxiety and stress.  Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take that can help you break the endless loop of self-doubt and begin to add exercise into your life.

Change Your Mindset

The first step in getting moving, is changing the way you think about exercise.  The word “exercise” sounds like work.  It sounds like a task to be accomplished or a chore to be done. In other words, it’s something “extra” you have to fit in to your life.  When you are depressed and have no motivation or energy, the last thing you want to do is add one more thing to your to-do list!

So, start by not thinking about it as exercise at all.  Change your mindset to think of it as simply, movement.  Moving your body is a natural part of life.  By shifting your mental focus from exercise to merely moving your body, you remove the burden of extra work and can begin to appreciate how good it feels to just move.

It is important to find movement that feels good to your body.  Movement should be associated with positive energy and feelings, never discomfort or pain.  If you have physical limitations, find movement that you can do that does not exacerbate existing conditions or injuries.

Everyone’s body is different, so it may take some experimentation to find movement that works for you.  It may be slow and flowing, like yoga, stretching, or tai chi. Or, it may be short and intense, like punching a heavy bag. Or, it may be simple and relaxed like walking.  Remember, any movement that feels good to your body is good for your soul.

Start Where You Are Today

Depression has an ugly way of making you feel like the current version of yourself is not acceptable.  It strips you of your confidence and keeps you from taking that first step forward.  For example, below are some common thoughts you might have when you are depressed.

I would start exercising if only…

…I could get out of bed.

…it wasn’t so cold and miserable outside.

…I wasn’t so anxious around other people.

Don’t let these feelings stop you from taking those first steps to get moving.  Start where you are today and work from there.  Wherever you are today, however you feel, start there and take one step forward.

If you can’t get out of bed, stretch or do some simple yoga poses right in your bed.  If the thought of leaving the house is overwhelming, walk a lap around the house or walk up and down a flight of stairs.  If the thought of having to interact with others makes you anxious, stay home and use an exercise video or online workout that has a movement and instruction style that is a good fit for you.

Create a Safe, Accessible Space to Move

Individuals with depression constantly battle feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.  Therefore, it is important that you find a space where you feel comfortable and safe to move without feeling anxious or judged.  This space should be easily accessible to you and provide you with enough room to safely move.  It may be in your own home, at a gym or recreation facility, in your neighborhood, or at a favorite outdoor space like a park or trail.

You should always feel positive and supported in your space.  That means avoiding environments

  • that are highly competitive.
  • provoke an anxiety response.
  • lead to any feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt.
  • where people are critical and unsupportive.

Find Your Support

One of the best things you can do to help yourself find the motivation to move more, is to connect with others for support.  Research shows that positive social support, can decrease stress, increase motivation and improve overall mental health.

There are several ways that you can connect with others and get the support you need.  Pick the option(s) that work best for you based on where you are today.

Meet-Up with a Friend

Schedule a date with someone to meet up and do something active.  This could be a partner, friend, co-worker, or anyone that you enjoy spending time with.   Having a time planned to meet someone can be the motivation you need to get up and get moving.  Just make sure that whomever you choose is supportive, never competitive or critical.

Join an Online Community

If you suffer from social anxiety or do not have anyone in your life right now that can fully support you, consider joining an online community.  Fortunately, there are thousands of options available online.  Just as with your in-person relationships, it is important that you find an online community that fits you.   Take some time to explore different groups to find one that meets your needs.  Your community should be inclusive, supportive, and committed to helping you become healthier.

Team Up with Your Pet

Support doesn’t have to come in human form.  Exercising with your pet is another way to get the support you need to get moving.  Animals are source of unconditional love and support, making them perfect workout partners.  As an added bonus, research has found that interacting with animals has numerous benefits, including:

  • Improving mood by boosting levels of serotonin and dopamine.
  • Reducing levels of anxiety and stress.
  • Increasing motivation.
  • Fostering a sense of purpose and improving self-esteem.

If you don’t have a pet, don’t worry!  Consider volunteering at a local animal shelter as a dog walker or playing with the animals.  There are plenty of homeless animals that would appreciate your time and affection.

Keep it Simple

One of the keys to adding movement into your life when you are depressed is to make it as easy as possible.  Depression can make even the smallest tasks seem overwhelming.  So, take the stress away by keeping it simple and focus on minimizing the effort to move.  Give yourself permission to take the easy road.  If you don’t feel like getting dressed, exercise in your pajamas.  If you normally go to the gym, stay home and do a workout video.

Set Micro-Goals

Another way to simplify is by setting micro-goals, that is breaking up the experience into ridiculously small pieces.  Studies show that breaking down larger tasks into smaller pieces is the best way to accomplish a goal.  This is because every time we accomplish a goal, our brain reacts by releasing dopamine, the “feel-good” chemical.  This good feeling motivates us to continue on, accomplishing more while improving our overall mood.

Here is an example of how you might use micro-goals to encourage yourself to move.

  • I will put on my socks and sneakers.
  • I will go to the kitchen and fill my water bottle and drink.
  • I will walk in a path between the kitchen, the living room, and the hallway for 5 laps.
  • I give myself the permission to stop after 5 laps. If I am feeling good, I will do 5 more laps.
  • When I am done, I will sit in my favorite chair.
  • I will remove my socks and sneakers.
  • I will drink the rest of my water.
  • I will relax for at least 5 minutes.

Use a Timer

Breaking the inertia associated with depression is usually the hardest part.  If we can find a way to just get started and get moving, everything else becomes easier.  One way to help break the inertia is to use a timer to set time-based micro-goals.  Begin by setting small time increments of no more than 5 minutes.  Commit to moving until the timer finishes.

If 5 minutes seems like too much, start with 1 minute.  Also, remind yourself that you are always the one in control.  Before you start, give yourself permission to stop at any time without feeling guilty.  Remember, any movement is better than none at all.

Connect with Something You Love

Movement should always be a pleasant experience.  However, when you are depressed, it can often be hard to connect to the good feelings you get from moving your body.  One tip for helping to create a positive association to physical activity is to connect the activity to something that you enjoy.  For example, if you enjoy music, create a playlist of your favorite songs that you only listen to while you move.  Some other options might include watching favorite TV show or listening to an audiobook during your workout.

You are much more likely to start moving and stay moving when you connect physical activity to something you enjoy.  So, think about what you love and get moving!

Go Outside

Whenever possible, take your activity outside.  Exercising outdoors has additional benefits to indoor exercise.  Compared with exercising indoors, exercising outdoors has been shown to

  • increase feelings of revitalization and positive engagement.
  • decrease tension, confusion, anger, and depression.
  • increase energy.
  • make the activity more satisfying and enjoyable.

So, consider stepping outdoors for your next workout.  As little as 5 minutes of activity outdoors can make a huge difference.

Focus on How You Feel

Take some time both during and after physical activity to focus on how you feel.  Make sure to tune into the sensations in your body before, during, and after.  Take a few minutes after your workout to assess your mood, anxiety levels, and overall mental state. Try to capture the positive feelings resulting from your activity.  The next time you need motivation to move, tap back into those good feelings.

Be Kind and Reward Yourself 

Finally, always take time to reward yourself for every positive step forward.  Every movement should be celebrated!   Speak to yourself in a kind and encouraging way, expressing gratitude for what you and your body have accomplished.

In Conclusion

Take the time to take care of yourself this holiday season.  If you struggle with depression or anxiety, try to add just a few minutes of movement into your life every day.  Even the smallest amount of movement can have a huge impact on your emotional and mental health.

Man sitting in a chair using a laptop computer. Test "Q&A" with a lightbulb graphic.

Webinar Q&A – How to Choose Your Gym: 5 Questions You NEED to Ask When You Have a Disability

Thank you to everyone that joined us on November 15, 2017 for the webinar How to Choose Your Gym: 5 Questions You NEED to Ask When You Have a Disability.  Attendees came away with valuable tips on how to take the stress out of finding the right gym when you have a disability.

If you weren’t able to join us on the 15th – no problem!  You can watch the webinar at any time.  Just click the button below to view a recording of the live webinar.

View Webinar Button - View a recording of the live webinar

Also, we had some great questions during the Q&A that I wanted to share with everyone.  Here is a recap of the Q&A session.


Q:  I have already signed a contract with a gym, and I do like it, but now that I’ve taken this webinar I am realizing that there are some things that should have been red flags. I’ve always just accepted these limitations in the place meeting my needs, but now that I know better what can I do to address the concerns at my current gym?  In other words, how do I advocate for my needs in a gym that I already belong to?

A:  [Jennifer Hobbs]  That’s a great question.  So, I think you’re right, there’s one thing about having the information and knowing the questions to ask and actually being able to advocate for yourself in the gym.  As I had actually just touched on, don’t be afraid to ask questions and if you’re not getting the responses you want one thing I would say first take a look at who are you talking to.  Maybe you’re not talking to the right person.  Maybe you need to talk to a manager.  If you’re still not getting the information or getting the response that you want, I always recommend taking an approach of educating the staff.  Give them your thoughts. Tell them a little bit about inclusive fitness, how they might be able to improve their accessibility and inclusion at their facilities.  If you’d like, volunteer to help them and be your own advocate to help them get that knowledge.

Q:  I can’t seem to find a gym in my area that’s really inclusive. Am I really just looking for a needle in a haystack?

A:  [Jennifer Hobbs]  It can probably feel like that sometimes.  What I have found is a lot of it does depend on where you are. I think here in the United States, what I’d like to term “the inclusion revolution” in the health and fitness industry, is just starting to build momentum.  Inclusion and accessibility is not something that most gyms have high on
their priority list.  I think that certain places, like Great Britain and Australia, have made a lot of progress and are way ahead of the United States in terms of offering things like training to fitness professionals and raising awareness about the importance of inclusive
fitness. So, I can see where you’d think it would kind of be a needle in the haystack and that’s really where the advocacy has to come in.  More than likely, if you are in the United States, if you’re going to a gym, that’s probably not going to be something that is in the forefront of their business model. So, as long as they are willing to work with you, then advocate for yourself and you can probably make a difference. Hopefully, with more training like this and starting to get the word out more about the inclusive fitness movement here in the United States, we are going to start to see a change.  We’re going to see more facilities being more accessible and being more inclusive of individuals with disabilities.


What are your questions and comments?  Let’s continue the conversation – share your thoughts in the Comments section.

Jennifer's Signature Jennifer Hobbs

Calendar with the text "Join Gym" written in script. A red push pin marks the date of the 20th.

Free Webinar – How to Choose Your Gym: 5 Questions You NEED to Ask When You Have a Disability

It is no secret that most of us struggle to maintain a regular exercise program.  This can be particularly challenging when you have a disability.  Work, school, health issues, and just life in general can make it difficult to carve out even a few hours a week to spend on our own wellbeing.  So how can you get motivated to move more and make exercise a part of your normal routine – join a gym!

A recent study Iowa State University showed that gym members logged a whopping 484 minutes of exercise on average per week compared to only 137 minutes per week for non-members.  Additionally, the odds of meeting weekly physical activity guidelines were 14 times higher for gym members than for non-gym members.  As if that wasn’t enough evidence of the value of a gym membership, researchers also found that gym members were less likely to be obese, had lower blood pressure, higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness, and smaller waist circumferences than non-members.

Sounds great!  Sign me up, right?  Unfortunately, the thought of finding the right gym and committing to signing on that dotted line can easily become overwhelming, especially when you have a disability.

Good news!  Choosing a gym doesn’t have to be a stressful experience.  I invite you to join me for a FREE 30-minute webinar, where I will to show you how you can take the anxiety out of choosing a gym when you have a disability.  All it takes is a little planning ahead and asking a few simple questions to help you find your perfect fit.

Here is everything you need to know to join me for this exciting event!

Event Details

Webinar:  How to Choose Your Gym: 5 Questions You NEED to Ask When You Have a Disability
Date:  Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Time:  2:00 – 2:30 pm EST
Duration:  30 minutes
Presented By:  Jennifer Hobbs, MS, MBA,
President & Founder, IncluFit

In this webinar, you will learn:

  • Tips on how to plan ahead to make the most of your gym search.
  • “Red flags” to watch for when touring a gym.
  • The top 5 questions to ask gym staff during the first visit.

To reserve your spot in the webinar (spaces are limited), click on the button below:

Register Now! Click Button to Register for Webinar

Or click this link to register:
http://inclufit.clickmeeting.com/574233371/register

I hope to see you on November 15th!

Jennifer's Signature Jennifer Hobbs

Woman flexing biceps in the sun, shown from the back.

SCI Workout Consideration #6 – Muscles & Joints

Of course, all physical activity engages the muscles and joints. Everyone that exercises regularly eventually experiences some muscle soreness or joint pain or stiffness. Usually, these conditions are temporary and are easily treatable with a little rest and proper self-care; however, individuals with SCI need to be particularly aware of several conditions affecting muscles and joints that can be extremely painful and potentially debilitating.

Spasticity 

Spasticity is due to increased tone in a muscle.

What Issues Are Posed With SCI? 

A spinal cord injury disrupts communication between the brain and the part of the nervous system responsible for muscle control below the level of injury. This disconnect can result in a common condition that individuals with SCI need to consider when exercising – spasticity.

Spasticity typically occurs in the muscles below the site of injury and can make it challenging to exercise since it can be very painful. It can lead to abnormal posture, cause deformities in the bones and joints, and can be further exacerbated by exercise.

Symptoms 

Symptoms of spasticity include:

  • High muscle tone
  • Hyperactive stretch reflexes
  • Spasms: Quick and/or sustained involuntary muscle contractions
  • Clonus: A series of fast involuntary contractions
  • Contractures: A permanent contraction of the muscle and tendon due to severe lasting stiffness and spasms

Steps to Reduce Risk When Exercising

There are several steps that you can take to reduce spasticity and make exercise safer and more comfortable.

If you experience spasticity, try:

  • Regular stretching several times per day. This is the best way to reduce spasticity.
  • Aim to hold stretches for 10-30 seconds.
  • Use a partner to assist you in stretching of the non-functioning muscle.
  • If you take medication to control spasticity, try to coordinate the time you take the medication and the time of your exercise session to minimize spasticity during your workout.

To avoid further complications from spasticity:

  • Do not bounce or perform ballistic stretching.
  • Do not exercise when you are experiencing severe spasticity.  Work with your doctor or therapist to reduce spasticity before returning to exercise.
  • Do not exercise when you have an infection. Urinary tract and other infections can increase the risk of spasticity,
  • Do not exercise in cold temperatures, since cold air can increase spasticity.

Overuse Injuries

Individuals with SCI (particularly those that use a manual wheelchair) are susceptible to several overuse injuries. The repetitive motion of pushing a wheelchair puts significant stress on the muscles and joints of the upper body, namely the wrists and shoulders.  

Some of the most common overuse injuries experienced within the SCI community are carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff strain, and shoulder impingement.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome 

Carpal tunnel syndrome results from chronic pressure on the wrist that causes swelling.  The swelling compresses the nerve that runs through the wrist to the hand, the medial nerve, causing pain and weakness.

What Issues Are Posed With SCI? 

Manual wheelchair users are very susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome because the act of the hand repeatedly gripping and pushing the wheels places a significant amount of force on the hands and wrists.  Studies show that as many as 90% of long-term manual wheelchair users suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome.

Symptoms 

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome affect the hand and wrist and may include:

  • Pain
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Weakness

Steps to Reduce Risk When Exercising 

Like most overuse injuries, the best way to keep carpal tunnel syndrome from affecting your ability to exercise is through prevention.

Some steps you can take to reduce your risk include:

  • Wearing padded gloves.
  • Using good body mechanics when pushing your wheelchair.
  • Making sure your wheelchair is fitted properly and equipment is well maintained.
  • Using padding push rims to reduce pressure on the hands
  • Applying ice to the wrists for 20 minutes at the end of each day to reduce any swelling.
  • Incorporating a wrist flexibility and strengthening program into your routine.  

Rotator Cuff Strain & Shoulder Impingement 

The ball-and-socket structure of the shoulder joint makes it extremely mobile but also very vulnerable to possible injuries. For manual wheelchair users, the shoulder joint is the primary joint used during transfers and propulsion. This puts wheelchair users at particularly high risk for developing shoulder injuries.

Rotator cuff strain is most commonly caused by muscle imbalances in the shoulder.

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons around the shoulder joint that are responsible for moving and stabilizing the shoulder joint. The motion of pushing a wheelchair causes certain muscles of the shoulder to be used more than others, leading to muscular imbalances. These imbalances can result in injury to the rotator cuff.

Additionally, individuals with SCI tend to have weak internal and external shoulder rotators.  This weakness can also contribute to rotator cuff strain.

Symptoms of a rotator cuff strain include pain and/or an aching sensation in the shoulder joint.

An image of a man using a wheelchair and holding a dumbbell.

Shoulder impingement is another common injury among wheelchair users because the biomechanics of pushing a wheelchair creates a significant amount of pressure on the shoulder joint. This pressure is 2.5 times higher for wheelchair users than for non-wheelchair users!

Also, long periods spent in a seated position require that wheelchair users frequently reach overhead to grasp objects and perform tasks. Once again, the biomechanics of this movement put considerable stress on the shoulder joint.

Steps to Reduce Risk When Exercising 

You can reduce your risk of developing shoulder injuries by taking the following preventative measures:

  • Always use good body mechanics when pushing your wheelchair.
  • Try to balance out the time pushing in your chair with other types of physical activity that use different movements and muscles.
  • Make sure your exercise routines are well balanced, including stretching, aerobic exercise, and strength training.
  • Incorporate strength training exercises to help reduce muscular imbalances in the shoulder. Be sure to include exercises to strengthen the shoulder’s internal and external rotators!

Conclusion

As you can see, being aware of a few common conditions associated with SCI that can impact exercise will help you take the necessary steps to minimize your risk so that you can exercise safely. Exercising with SCI doesn’t have to be intimidating or scary, and the benefits of exercise are well-worth the investment!

Looking for SCI-friendly exercise guides? Visit our website at inclufit.com to view our exercise videos, equipment, and training tips.

Further Reading 

NCHPAD – Overuse Injuries in Wheelchair Users

NCHPAD – Spinal Cord Injuries

Spasticity

Woman holding an x-ray image of the leg and ankle bones in front of her.

SCI Workout Consideration #5 – Bone Loss

Having weak and brittle bones due to a loss of bone mass can be a significant risk factor for injury during exercise. In general, weak bones are:

  • More susceptible to fractures from forces generated on them during physical activity.  
  • More likely to break as a result of accidents during exercise, such as slipping and falling or injury from a piece of equipment.  Even minor accidents, such as twisting your leg can result in a broken bone.

What Issues Are Posed With SCI? 

Bone loss can impact anyone, however, individuals with SCI are affected at much higher rates than the general population. In fact, it is estimated that 80% of individuals with chronic SCI have bone loss significant enough to be diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis and decreases in bone density of 30% to 40% in the legs is typical after SCI.

Most of the bone loss occurs below the level of injury; therefore, individuals with quadriplegia experience the greatest overall bone loss. Individuals with paraplegia also experience significant bone loss in the lower extremities but maintain bone density in the upper body.

The primary reason for bone loss after SCI is due to the lack of mechanical stress on the bones below the level of injury. This is because every time we move, and even when we are standing still, our muscles are working to support us. When a muscle contracts, it places a mechanical stress on the bone it is attached to and the body responds to the stress by creating more bone. When the muscle can’t contract, the bone-building process ceases and bone mass is gradually decreased over time.

Other factors that contribute to the loss of bone mass in individuals with SCI include:

  • Hormonal changes
  • Changes in metabolism and blood pH
  • Poor blood flow to the limbs
  • Altered gas and nutrient exchange at the bone.

How to Reduce Risk When Exercising

You can significantly reduce your risk of fractures during exercise by always taking the following steps:

  • Exercise in a safe environment. Since accidents are a common cause of fractures, the best way to avoid them is through prevention. This means exercising in a safe environment.  
  • Make sure that your training environment is safe and free from obstacles that may cause a fall.
  • Learn safe transfer techniques to minimize the possibility of injury while transferring from your wheelchair to equipment and back again.
  • Use straps or other adaptive devices to make sure that your trunk is properly supported on equipment and ensure that you can maintain your balance throughout the exercise.
  • Take the time to properly position and secure your wheelchair prior to each exercise.
  • Use appropriate equipment. For example, if you have limited hand function, using cuff weights or weights with straps will allow you to safely perform exercises without the risk of dropping the weight on yourself.  
  • Avoid movements with a high fracture risk. Some movements put excessive stress on the bones, which can lead to fractures.  

To avoid fractures, always:

  • Perform all movements in a slow, controlled manner and always within your range of motion.
  • Avoid movements that put excessive stress on the bones.  Movements to avoid include:
    • Twisting (especially twisting with a weight or other load)
    • Extensive flexion or extension
    • Overstretching can put significant stress on the bones, causing fractures. When performing assisted stretches (i.e. stretches with a partner), make sure your partner avoids extreme tension.

Finally, remember to always check your body after each workout for any signs of fracture, including swelling, redness, and bruising.


Next Up…

#6 Muscle & Joint Issues

Further Reading 

Osteoporosis and Fractures in Persons with SCI:  What, Why, and How to Manage