Take the Quiz! – How Inclusive is Your Fitness Facility?

Now is the perfect time for gym and studio owners to profit by appealing to one of the biggest, largely untapped markets in the fitness industry – individuals with disabilities.  Many fitness facilities, however, are not equipped to meet the needs of the disability community.

Are you curious if your facility makes the grade for inclusion and accessibility?  You can find out by taking our quick quiz.  This quiz will help you gauge where your fitness facility currently stands in its level of accessibility, as well as the key areas for improvement.

At the end of the quiz, you will have the option to get a FREE copy of The Ultimate Guide to Making Your Fitness Facility More Inclusive.  This guide offers loads of tips to make your facility more inclusive as well as a handy 1-page checklist that you can use to assess your facility’s accessibility and inclusivity and identify areas for improvement.

Just click the button below to take the quiz now!

Button - Take the Quiz

Webinar Q&A – Getting Fit with a Disability: How to Advocate for Yourself at the Gym

Thank you to everyone that joined us on February 28, 2018 for the webinar Getting Fit with a Disability:  How to Advocate for Yourself at the Gym.  In the webinar, participants learned how to create a successful self-advocacy plan, effectively communicate with health and fitness professionals, and develop creative solutions that are a win-win for everyone.

If you weren’t able to join us for the live presentation, 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, I want to share answers to the questions we received during and after the webinar.


Q:  Is the approach I take to self-advocacy going to be different if I am just evaluating a new gym that if I am already a member under contract with a gym?

A:  [Jennifer Hobbs] If you are evaluating a gym, you are in complete control. If you feel that you are not being heard or that the organization is not willing to accommodate you, you can choose not to join and find another facility. If you are interested in learning more about what look for when you are searching for a fitness facility, I encourage you to go to our website and watch our webinar How to Choose Your Gym: 5 Questions You NEED to Ask When You Have a Disability. You will get some great tips on how to plan your gym search as well as identify “red flags” to look for when touring a gym.

If you already belong to a gym, and specifically if you are in a contract, you don’t have the flexibility to just leave. Therefore, self-advocacy becomes more important. Remember, you have the same right to fully participate as any other member of the gym. That is when developing a more formal self-advocacy plan, like the one we discussed today, becomes more important.

Q:  If I don’t get the results that I need from my self-advocacy efforts, what do I do next?

A: [Jennifer Hobbs]  If you do not get the results that you expect, you have several options.

  1. You may want to investigate more official channels.  This may include filing a formal compliant in writing to the organization’s management. You may also want to enlist the support of a disability advocacy organization to pursue a more formal advocacy process.
  2. If you feel that your legal rights are violated, contact an attorney and consider filing a legal action.
  3. Reassess your strategy and goals. Perhaps take another approach or pursue another issue that is easier to resolve.
  4. End your relationship with the facility. If you are under contract, determine the terms of the contract and terminate your membership when the contract expires.
  5. Finally, you may choose to accept the situation, at least for now,  You may decide that continuing to pursue the issue is not worth your time and effort right now.

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

Jennifer's Signature Jennifer Hobbs

Free Webinar – Getting Fit with a Disability: How to Advocate for Yourself at the Gym

One of the best ways to get active is by joining a gym or fitness facility. However, navigating the gym can be challenging when you have a disability. Fortunately, you can overcome these barriers and enjoy safe and effective workouts at the gym. The key is successfully advocating for yourself and knowing how to ask for what you need.

What is Self-Advocacy?

Self-advocacy is taking action by speaking up and asking for what you need.  Successful self-advocacy involves knowing your rights, understanding your needs, and effectively communicating those needs to others.

Why is it Important?

If you have a disability, self-advocacy can be a critical skill if you choose to exercise at a gym or fitness facility.  Many facilities are not designed with the needs of individuals with disabilities in mind.  Also, many health and fitness professionals are not aware of the needs of individuals with disabilities in these settings.  Therefore, you need become your own best advocate by taking action to ensure that your needs are met.

Self-advocacy helps you:

  • Get what you need (e.g. information, equipment, resources, instruction) to exercise safely and effectively.
  • Make sure your rights are respected.
  • Develop assertiveness and self-determination.
  • Learn to say no without guilt.
  • Express disagreement while respecting the needs of others.

How Do I Advocate for Myself?

The thought of having to speak up for your own interests can be scary.  Fortunately, self-advocacy doesn’t have to be a daunting task.  It is a learned skill that you can master through proper planning and practice.  The key to success is having a solid strategy that gives you the confidence you need take action.

If you are interested in learning how to become your own best advocate at the gym, I invite you to join me FREE 30-minute webinar.  In this webinar, you will learn:

  • A simple 3-step plan for successful self-advocacy in health and fitness settings.
  • Tips for effectively communicating with health and fitness professionals.
  • Problem-solving strategies for developing creative solutions that are a win-win for everyone!

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

Event Details

Webinar: Getting Fit with a Disability:  How to Advocate for Yourself at the Gym 
Date:  Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Time:  7:00 – 7:30 pm EST
Duration:  30 minutes
Presented By:  Jennifer Hobbs, MS, MBA
President & Founder, IncluFit

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 look forward to seeing you on February 28th!

Jennifer's Signature Jennifer Hobbs

Inclusive Fitness: Why It Matters to Your Health and Fitness Business

Have you heard of inclusive fitness?

Inclusive fitness is a newly emerging facet of the health and fitness industry, yet, unfortunately, most business owners and managers don’t understand the overall impact that this could have on the growth and longevity of their business. 

Not only are inclusive health and fitness businesses tapping into this market segment’s spending power, but they are also gaining increased trust and interest from all consumers—those with disabilities and those without.

Ultimately, inclusive fitness is not just about getting people into your facility, but about creating a space and series of programs where all people are welcome and able to participate. Living a healthy and active life should be possible for everyone!

Are you ready to establish yourself as an industry leader? Check this out…

Inclusive Fitness - Why it Matters [Infographic]

 

Webinar Q&A – New Year, New You: Tips for Getting Fit with a Disability

Thank you to everyone that joined us on January 3, 2018 for the webinar New Year, New You:  Tips for Getting Fit with a Disability.  Throughout the month of December 2017, we asked the IncluFit online community to answer the question “What is the #1 barrier individuals with disabilities face in getting fit?”.  We received tons of great responses!  Here is a sample…

  • “Thinking they can’t do it.”
  • “Courage to do it!!”
  • “Motivation.”
  • “No help.”
  • “Lack of accessible places and understanding, inclusive-minded staff.”
  • “Assumption you will hurt yourself.”

…and many, many more!

It was difficult, but we compiled your responses and determined the top 3 barriers faced by individuals with disabilities in getting fit.  In the webinar, we discussed each of these barriers and identified strategies for overcoming those barriers in the new year.

If you weren’t able to join us for the live presentation, 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:  You talked a lot about advocating for yourself at the gym and asking for what you need, but how do I know if what I’m asking for is reasonable?

A:  [Jennifer Hobbs] That’s a very good question. First, I want to start by saying advocating for yourself can be incredibly challenging especially if you’re someone who doesn’t like to make waves or is afraid of asking for what you need. So, that can be very challenging in and of itself, just to get up the courage to ask for what you need.  Then having the fear of “Is what I’m asking for reasonable or are my expectations skewed? Am I asking for something that’s really not reasonable?” Now, that’s going to depend on what you’re asking for, in what situation you’re in, but I am definitely of the opinion – ask for what you need! However, be willing to have an open conversation with the people. For example, if you’re in the gym and there’s a piece of equipment that would really benefit you that the facility doesn’t have, approach the manager. Have a conversation, but be willing to have a good back and forth. Educate them on why it is beneficial. Help them understand the benefits that it will bring to you and, not just you, but their other clients as well. But, expect that it might not be something that they could do right away. So, always ask. Don’t expect immediate results, but you can, at a minimum, try to work out a plan to see if maybe they could do that in the future. Maybe there’s another option that they could implement right now. So, in my opinion, no request is unreasonable but the important thing is the conversation that you have that you have afterwards.

Q:  How can I tell the difference between pain and just discomfort associated with exercise?

A:  [Jennifer Hobbs]  That’s a tough one. That can be a really challenging one, especially if you live your life with chronic pain. It can be very hard to distinguish what is pain from an injury or condition and what is just general discomfort from using your muscles in a different way or being physically active. In general, anything that causes a sharp, acute, sudden pain that makes you wince or makes you immediately feel like you have to stop, that’s probably an indicator that you should stop. That is, something is exacerbating your injury or condition or potentially causing a new injury. Stop, assess, take a break, come back. The sensations associated with physical activity and exercise feel something like a warmth or a kind of a muscle burn or kind of a gradual buildup of fatigue. That’s indicative of a normal response of your body to exercise, particularly exercise that it may not be used to. So, pain associated with injury is usually more sudden, acute, sharp, extremely painful. Pain associated, pain or discomfort, I don’t want to say pain, but discomfort associated with physical activity is generally a little more gradual, not as sharp, and develops over time. But the best way to really determine that is to set small goals and work up slowly. The more slowly that you work up, adding in exercises to your routine, adding intensity and time you’re going to start to develop the sense of what is pain and what is just regular exercise discomfort.


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

Jennifer's Signature Jennifer Hobbs

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!

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

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

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.

I hope to see you on November 15th!

Jennifer's Signature Jennifer Hobbs

Get a Grip: 4 Essential Pieces of Equipment for Resistance Training with Grip Pain & Weakness

It’s estimated that over 1 in 4 adults in the United States experiences some degree of difficulty gripping objects due to pain or weakness in the hands. While gripping difficulties can be due to a number of conditions including fibromyalgia, stroke, paralysis, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and Parkinson’s disease, arthritis is by far the most common cause of gripping difficulties, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that it affects more than 54.4 million adults in the USA. In fact, arthritis is currently the leading cause of adult disability in the US.

Luckily, there are ways for those affected to alleviate pain in the fingers, hands, and wrists, as well as increase grip strength. One of the best ways to reap these benefits is by following a regular resistance training program. 

Though a resistance training program might seem counterintuitive, it can be incredibly effective and only requires a few versatile pieces of equipment. Best of all, this method doesn’t require a lot of money spent on equipment or gym memberships, and can even be completed in the comfort of your own home!

What is Resistance Training?

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, resistance training (also known as strength training or weight lifting) is “a form of exercise designed to improve muscular fitness by exercising a muscle or a muscle group against external resistance.”

Applying external resistance to a muscle will cause it to contract, leading to increases in muscular size, strength, endurance and tone. External resistance can come in a variety of forms, including dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, or even your own body weight.

What are the Benefits of Resistance Training?

Over and over, research has shown that resistance training has numerous positive effects on both physical and mental health for participants of all ages and ability levels.  

According to the Mayo Clinic and a recent study in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, some of the general benefits of resistance training include:

  • Retention of lean muscle mass with age
  • Improved balance
  • Decreased risk of heart disease
  • Reduced resting blood pressure
  • Increased bone mineral density
  • Alleviation of the symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Increased functional independence and enhanced quality of life

As if the benefits listed above weren’t enough, studies also suggest that resistance training provides even more benefits for individuals with arthritis, fibromyalgia and other conditions causing grip pain and weakness.

The Mayo Clinic and an article by Wayne Westcott in the Current Sports Medicine Reports state that those additional benefits of resistance training include:

  • Increased range of motion
  • Decreased joint pain
  • Reduced lower back pain

How do I Resistance Train When I Can’t Hold a Weight?

To fully reap the rewards of resistance training, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends performing resistance training a minimum of two days per week. The ACSM also states that “exercise sessions should be performed on non-consecutive days and each session should target each of the major muscle groups.”

This all sounds great in theory, but, in reality it can be difficult to perform strength training exercises when you experience grip pain and weakness. Typical resistance training equipment such as barbells and dumbbells requires significant gripping strength!

Fortunately, there are plenty of other equipment options available that will allow you to strength train with grip pain and weakness. Below, we’ll examine 4 essential pieces of resistance training equipment that will allow you to safely adapt and perform resistance training workouts.

Looking for exercises?  Want tips on selecting and using equipment?  Visit our website at inclufit.com to view our exercise videos, equipment, and training tips.

Essential Pieces of Equipment for Resistance Training

Let’s explore 4 essential pieces of resistance training equipment that you can use to get a safe and effective resistance training workout– all from within the comfort of your own home!

1. Medicine Balls

A medicine ball is simply a weighted ball. They are a great tool for developing upper body strength, as well as performing a variety of functional movements for the upper body and core.

Medicine balls are versatile and are available in a variety of sizes (from the size of a softball to the size of a beach ball) and weights (from 1 pound to 50 pounds).

Traditional medicine balls are firm and covered with a nylon, leather, polyurethane, or rubber exterior.  Frequently, the ball’s exterior is tacky or textured to make it easier to grip. However, even traditional medicine balls with these features can be impossible to use if you suffer from grip pain and weakness.

Luckily, there are several medicine ball options that give those with grip pain and weakness all of the benefits of a traditional medicine ball, without the need for a strong grip.

Let’s explore these options in more detail…

Medicine Balls with Handles or Straps

This style of medicine ball is similar to a traditional medicine ball, but it has either one or two handles or straps. Generally, these medicine balls have a hard, texturized shell.

The user’s hands slide into the straps or handles, making the ball easy to grip and cause less fatigue in the arms and hands, which allows you to exercise longer. These medicine balls provide the option of gripping with one or two hands to allow for both one arm and two arm exercises (if the ball is small).

An image of a medicine ball with handles.
Medicine Ball with Handles

Medicine balls with handles or straps are ideal for:

  • Upper body exercises
  • Abdominal training
  • Exercises involving rotational movement

Soft Grip Medicine Balls

Soft medicine balls have a soft, pliable exterior shell and are typically filled with sand, gel, or a similar flexible material. An added bonus – because soft medicine balls are squishy, they also develop grip strength!

An image of a soft medicine ball.
Soft Medicine Ball

Some soft grip medicine balls are filled with air. The firmness of air-filled balls can be adjusted by increasing or decreasing the air. The more air, the firmer the ball. The less air, the more pliable the ball, making it easier to grasp.

If the ball is small, soft medicine balls give you the flexibility of gripping with one or two hands, allowing for both one arm and two arm exercises.

Soft grip medicine balls are ideal for:

  • Upper body exercises
  • Developing grip strength

Ergonomic Medicine Balls

An ergonomic medicine ball has all of the advantages of both a medicine ball with straps and a soft grip medicine ball. Double bonus!

The ergonomic design fits the natural shape of the hand, leading to less fatigue and easier grip, but this style of medicine ball also has a soft, pliable surface like a soft medicine ball. This allows you to use it like a dumbbell but is much easier to hold onto.

The user’s hand slides into the strap, making the ball easy to grip. The strap can be adjusted to fit securely around the hand, which requires minimal gripping strength from the user.

Red, soft ergonomic medicine ball with adjustable strap.
Ergonomic Medicine Ball with Strap

Ergonomic medicine balls are ideal for:

    • Upper body exercises
    • Any exercise that you would use a dumbbell to perform
    • Individuals with severe hand pain and weakness since minimal gripping is required
    • Training one arm at a time
      • Note: If you want to work both arms at the same time, you simply need a second weight and use them just like you would use a pair of dumbbells

2. Soft Hand Weights

Soft hand weights are used much like a dumbbell but are much easier and more comfortable to hold onto. They consist of a soft, pliable shell that’s filled with sand or similar material, and are particularly great for individuals with larger hands that find light dumbbells too small to grip.

Man's hand holding a blue, soft hand weight.
Soft Hand Weight

Soft hand weights are ideal for:

    • Upper body exercises
    • Any exercise that you would use a dumbbell to perform
    • Training one arm at a time
      • Note: If you want to work both arms at the same time, you simply need a second weight and use them just like you would use a pair of dumbbells.

3. Cuff Weights

A cuff weight is typically a nylon sleeve that is wrapped around the wrist or ankle and secured with a Velcro strap. They are most often filled with sand or other similar materials and come in a range of weights (from 0.25 pounds to 25+ pounds).

Cuff weights can be used alone or in pairs and provide a great way to add resistance to almost any exercise without having to hold a weight. They are great for users with conditions such as tetraplegia and cerebral palsy who are unable to grasp because cuff weights don’t require any gripping!

Cuff weights are most often sized in a way that allows the wearer to place them on either the ankle or the wrist. This allows for use in both upper and lower body exercises. Larger sized cuffs are also available to use on the thigh, or with larger individuals, and pediatric sized cuffs are available for children and smaller adults.

Cuff weights are available in both fixed and variable (adjustable) weight versions. Here’s a little more information about each of these options…

Fixed Weight Cuff 

Fixed weight cuffs refer to cuffs that have a specific and unchanging weight.

Black and blue fixed weight cuff with adjustable strap.
Fixed Weight Cuff

The Pros & Cons of Fixed Weight Cuffs

Pros Cons
  • Often less expensive per cuff than variable weight
  • Many users find them more comfortable and conform better to the wrist or ankle than variable weights
  • If you want to increase or decrease weight, you must purchase other cuffs to expand your selection

Fixed weight cuffs are ideal for:

  • Upper and lower body exercises (wrist & ankle)

Variable Weight (Adjustable) Cuff

Variable weight cuffs (or adjustable weight cuffs) allow the user to adjust the weight of the cuff in small increments. The weight is adjusted by adding or removing weighted inserts.  

2 images of red, variable weight cuffs with adjustable straps and metal inserts.
Variable Weight Cuff

These inserts are typically small metal rods or small pouches filled with sand, and can range from 0.1 to 5 pounds each, depending upon the total weight of the cuff.

The Pros & Cons of Variable Weight Cuffs

Pros Cons
  • Variable weight cuffs have the benefit of providing a range of weight options without having to purchase several individual cuffs
  • Often more expensive per cuff than fixed weight
  • Many users find them less comfortable and do not conform as well to the wrist or ankle as fixed weight cuffs

Variable weight cuffs are ideal for:

  • Upper and lower body exercises (wrist & ankle)

4. Cuff Attachments & Handles

Resistance bands and resistance tubing are a terrific way to resistance train and are available in a variety of sizes, lengths, and strengths.

Resistance bands and resistance tubing offer the following advantages:

  • Lightweight and portable. You can use them anytime, anywhere. They are particularly great when you are travelling.
  • Cost-effective. Bands are relatively cheap compared to other fitness equipment. You can typically get a set of 4-6 foot bands or tubing for less than $20.
  • Good for any fitness level. Resistance bands come in a variety of resistances (from XX-Light to XXX-Heavy). There are options that are light enough for beginners or heavy enough for experienced exercisers.  
  • Easily adaptable. The level of resistance is easily adjustable, even in the middle of an exercise. Too much resistance? Just give the band or tube more slack. Too little resistance? Choke up on the band to make the exercise harder.  
  • Versatile. Resistance bands and tubes can be used for an effective full-body workout that challenges every part of the body – upper body, lower body, and core. The possibilities are endless!

With all of those benefits, working out with bands and tubing seems like a no-brainer. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to hold bands and tubes if you experience grip pain and weakness. Fortunately, there are several attachments that will allow you to safely and effectively use bands and tubing without discomfort or pain.  

Here are two great options…

Handles

A variety of handle attachments have been designed for use with resistance bands and tubing. Handles are typically covered with a foam padding, which makes the handles more comfortable and easier to grip. Using handles also reduces fatigue in the hands and forearms.

Pair of Handles
Pair of Handles

Handles are typically attached to the band or tube by one of two ways:

  1. Tying the band or tube to a metal D-ring on the handle. However, this method can be challenging to securely tie the tube or band if you have limited dexterity and/or finger, hand, or wrist pain.
  2. Threading the band or tube through a special “easy-load” mechanism. Handles with the “easy-load” mechanism allow the user to loop the band or tube through the handle and secure it without tying. This attachment method is best for anyone with limited dexterity and finger or hand pain.

Handles are ideal for:

  • Upper body exercises
  • Individuals with only slight grip pain or weakness

Cuffs

A cuff attachment is an adjustable, padded strap that is wrapped around the wrist or the ankle and secured with a Velcro strap. This attachment is a great way to use resistance bands and tubes without having to grip. Cuffs are particularly helpful to those that are unable to grasp and for those with conditions such as tetraplegia and cerebral palsy. The cuff is used just like a handle — but no gripping is required!

Cuff attachments come in a variety of sizes for use on the wrist, ankle or thigh. This versatility allows for use in both upper and lower body exercises. There are also larger sized cuffs available to use by larger individuals and pediatric sized cuffs are available for children and smaller adults. The variety of cuff sizes allows for use in upper and lower body exercises, giving you virtually unlimited exercise options. 

Adjustable cuff attachment on a green resistance band.
Band with Cuff Attachment

Just as with the handle attachments, cuff attachments are typically attached to the band or tube by one of two ways:

  1. Tying the band or tube to a metal D-ring on the cuff. However, this method can be challenging to securely tie the tube or band if you have limited dexterity and/or finger, hand, or wrist pain.
  2. Threading the band or tube through a special “easy-load” mechanism. Cuffs with the “easy-load” mechanism allow the user to loop the band or tube through the handle and secure it without tying.  This attachment method is best for anyone with limited dexterity and finger or hand pain.

Cuffs are ideal for:

  • Upper and lower body exercises (wrist, ankle, thigh)
  • Individuals with little or no grip strength
  • Individuals experiencing severe finger, hand, or wrist pain

Conclusion

The good news?

You can exercise with grip pain and weakness, you just need the right equipment!

With just a few key pieces of equipment, you can get an effective, full body workout at home without spending a lot of money or joining a gym. Best of all, developing a workout plan that includes resistance exercise will help you manage and alleviate symptoms of arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other conditions that cause grip pain and weakness.

So, what are you waiting for?  Don’t let grip pain and weakness stop you from being your best!

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Loneliness, Disabilities, and the Importance of Inclusive Physical Activity

While it’s normal to feel lonely at one time or another, chronic loneliness poses serious risks to both mental and physical health.

The British charity, Sense, recently released a report on disability and loneliness showing that individuals with disabilities are more likely to be chronically lonely than individuals without disabilities.

The Sense Report goes on to state that:

  • 53% of all individuals with a disability report feeling lonely on a regular basis
  • 77% of young people with a disability experience chronic loneliness

How can we combat such staggering and disturbing statistics? One solution may be exercise!

Both Current Psychology and the Journal of Nursing & Health Sciences report that physical activity has been shown to reduce feelings of loneliness and social isolation in all age groups. For individuals with disabilities, participation in sports and other physical activity has also been shown to positively impact social experiences and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Although any form of physical activity can be beneficial in combatting loneliness, research suggests that participation in inclusive (i.e. individuals both with and without disabilities participate together) sports and physical activity programs benefit individuals with a disability to an even greater extent.

Why is loneliness bad for you?

Nobody likes to feel lonely. It’s an undesirable and emotionally distressing experience.

A girl sits alone with her head down, looking sad, tired, and depressed.
A girl sits alone with her head down, looking sad, tired, and depressed.

For individuals who are chronically lonely, there can also be significant impacts on long-term mental and physical health. Chronic loneliness has been linked to a number of mental health conditions, which include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicide

Not only does loneliness have significant effects on mental health, but it can also directly impact physical health. As you can see, loneliness is not a minor health threat. Research suggests that chronic loneliness is as much of a threat to health as obesity and smoking.

Chronic loneliness has been linked to:

  • Weakened immune system
  • Alterations in gene expression, causing the body and brain to go into a protective mode
    • This causes additional stress and aging while the body is constantly in a state of “high alert”
  • Increased levels of cortisol (the stress hormone)
  • Changes in levels of dopamine (a neurotransmitter that determines impulsive behavior)
  • Long-term inflammation and damage to the tissues and blood vessels of the heart increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases
  • Sleep difficulties

The statistics on the impacts of loneliness on physical health are sobering. According to the Harvard Medical School and Everyday Health, people experiencing chronic loneliness are:

  • 64% more likely to develop dementia in later life
  • 29% more likely to suffer a heart attack
  • 32% more likely to have a stroke
  • 45% more likely to suffer early death

These risk factors can have an even greater impact on individuals with disabilities, as they often struggle with concurrent health conditions and other impairments.

Why do individuals with disabilities have higher rates of loneliness?

Individuals with disabilities face additional barriers when building social connections. Depending on the nature of the disability, these barriers may include:

  • Physical barriers, such as a lack of accessible transportation and/or facilities
  • A lack of inclusive programs
  • A lack of needed supports and accommodations to participate in programs

While these barriers all present issues for individuals with disabilities, the biggest barrier to all meaningful social engagement among individuals with disabilities is our society’s attitudes towards individuals with disabilities. Most commonly, an overall lack of awareness, stigmas, and other misconceptions about individuals with disabilities makes developing social relationships more challenging.

A boy using a wheelchair sits by himself and watches a team prepare for a game.
A boy using a wheelchair sits by himself and watches a team prepare for a game.

According to the Sense Report:

  • 49% of non-disabled people don’t believe they have anything in common with individuals with disabilities
  • 26% of non-disabled people admit they have avoided engaging in conversation with a person with a disability

With these statistics in mind, how can we all work together to break down these barriers and facilitate social connections among people both with and without disabilities?  

Inclusive sports and physical activity programs offer a solution.

How does physical activity help?

It’s no secret that exercise does wonders for both your physical and mental health.

Participating in physical activity has been shown to provide the following physiological, emotional, and social benefits:

  • Physiological Benefits
    • Boosting mood
    • Reducing the risk of numerous diseases, such as strokes, heart disease, and cancer
    • Increasing mobility
    • Improving the ability to perform other daily living activities
  • Emotional Benefits
    • Increasing self-esteem
    • Providing an opportunity to develop new skills
    • Creating a sense of accomplishment from setting and meeting goals
  • Social Benefits
    • Feelings of inclusion and belonging to a part of a larger group
    • Providing all participating individuals with common ground to talk about and share experiences

Why are inclusive physical activity opportunities particularly important?

According to the English Federation of Disability Sport, research suggests that participation in any sport or fitness activity, whether in a segregated environment (i.e. only individuals with disabilities participate) or an inclusive environment (i.e. individuals both with and without disabilities participate together) reduces loneliness and social isolation in individuals with disabilities.

Both of these types of programs offer numerous benefits to individuals with disabilities and help to decrease feelings of loneliness and increase opportunities for social interaction.

Some of these benefits include:

  • Increased self-esteem
  • Greater self-sufficiency
  • Improved communication and social skills
  • Developing friendships
  • Opportunities to assume a leadership role as a coach or mentor

However, research suggests that individuals with disabilities garner even more benefits from physical activity when participating in an inclusive program. An inclusive environment offers opportunities and advantages that simply do not exist in segregated programs.

Inclusive fitness environments provide three major additional benefits:

1. Changing Perceptions

Participation by both individuals with and without disabilities can help erase the biggest barrier to meaningful social engagement among individuals with disabilities – society’s negative attitudes. When people participate in physical activity together, they:

  • Share common goals
  • Work together, thus acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of themselves and others
  • Gain insight into the abilities and potential of others

These outcomes result in increased levels of social acceptance of individuals with disabilities by changing perceptions and decreasing negative stereotypes.

2. Building Community

One of the greatest factors driving loneliness in individuals with disabilities is the perception that they do not “belong” or “fit in” to society as a whole. Inclusive sports and physical activity programs are incredibly beneficial because they foster a sense of being part of the community.

This sense of community is important because:

  • Individuals expand their social networks to include people with more diverse backgrounds and experiences.
  • Unlike in segregated programs, inclusive programs provide the opportunity for everyone to participate so individuals with disabilities can enjoy time and exercise with non-disabled family and friends.
  • Perhaps most importantly, feeling like a part of a larger community has been shown to significantly reduce feelings of both loneliness and social isolation.

3. Developing Self-Confidence

Participation in inclusive sports and physical activity programs can help individuals with disabilities develop a sense of self-confidence, which can, in turn, lead to more plentiful and meaningful social interactions.

Inclusive physical activity for individuals with disabilities offers the opportunity to experience feelings of freedom and inclusion not typically experienced in everyday life. Over time, this self-confidence and self-esteem grow as individuals with disabilities feel accepted as peers.

Conclusion

As you can see, loneliness is a serious threat to both mental and physical health. Unfortunately, individuals with disabilities experience loneliness at much higher rates compared to those that are identified as non-disabled. Luckily, encouraging individuals with disabilities to be more active in inclusive sports and physical activity programs can help combat feelings of loneliness.

A man rolls in his wheelchair on the trail on the left while a woman cycles alongside him on the right.
A man rolls in his wheelchair on the trail while a woman cycles alongside him.

It takes each and every one of us to help make inclusive and accessible fitness available for all to enjoy. In order to make this a reality, however, we need to:

  • Create more inclusive opportunities in both sports and fitness programs
  • Ensure that staff are properly trained to support individuals with disabilities
  • Raise awareness about the importance of inclusive sports and physical activity programs

Are you interested in learning more about creating an inclusive fitness environment that everyone – no matter the age or ability – can enjoy? Check out our education and training offerings for more information.

Further Reading

English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS). (2014, August). Active together: Evidence-based report on how to provide sport or physical activity opportunities for disabled and non-disabled people to take part together. Retrieved from English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS): http://www.efds.co.uk/how-we-help/research/1836-active-together-august-2014

English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS). (2015, March). Talk to Me – Principles in Action. Retrieved from English Federation of Disability Sport: http://www.efds.co.uk/how-we-help/research/1878-talk-to-me-october-2014

Gupta, S. (2015, August 4). Why You Should Treat Loneliness as a Chronic Illness. Retrieved from Everyday Health: https://www.everydayhealth.com/news/loneliness-can-really-hurt-you/

Harvard Medical School. (2016, June). Loneliness has same risk as smoking for heart disease. Retrieved from Harvard Health Publications: http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/loneliness-has-same-risk-as-smoking-for-heart-disease

Haugen, T., Säfvenbom, R., & Ommundsen, Y. (2013, May 4). Sport Participation and Loneliness in Adolescents: The Mediating Role of Perceived Social Competence. Current Psychology, 32(2), 203-216. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/236693927_Sport_Participation_and_Loneliness_in_Adolescents_The_Mediating_Role_of_Perceived_Social_Competence

Mayer, W. E., & Anderson, L. S. (2014). Perceptions of People With Disabilities and Their Families about Segregated and Inclusive Recreation Involvement. Therapeutic Recreation Journal, 48(2), 150-168. Retrieved from http://js.sagamorepub.com/trj/article/view/5192

Robins, L. M., Jansons, P., & Haines, T. (2016, January). The Impact of Physical Activity Interventions on Social Isolation Among Community – Dwelling Older Adults: A Systematic Review. Research & Reviews: Journal of Nursing & Health Sciences, 2(1), 62-71. Retreived from https://www.omicsonline.org/scholarly-articles/the-impact-of-physical-activity-interventions-on-social-isolationamong-communitydwelling-older-adults-a-systematic-review-70173.html

Sense. (2017). “Someone cares if I’m not there” Addressing loneliness in disabled people. Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, London. Retrieved from https://www.sense.org.uk/sites/default/files/loneliness_report_-_someone_cares_if_im_not_there.pdf