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Why is Exercise Important After Rehabilitation?


Rehabilitation plays an important role in the recovery process of diseases and injuries to alleviate pain and improve mobility, strength, and physical functioning so individuals can participate in the activities they enjoy. The benefits of exercise extend after rehabilitation for individuals with disabilities as it can reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases (i.e. cardiovascular disease and diabetes), improve mental health, help manage symptoms (i.e. pain and muscle spasms), and lead to further strength and endurance improvements that can enhance functioning. Ariel Gavronski is a fitness instructor at the accessible fitness center at Parkwood Institute and she finds it exciting when patients start to feel good from exercise and notice improvements in their functional abilities, which allows them to perform tasks that they could not before. It is important to remember that improvements can still be made after rehabilitation therapy has been completed.  


Barriers to Exercise  

Despite the many ways exercise can benefit individuals with disabilities, exercise equipment and gyms are not always accessible. Specifically, inaccessible spaces can make it difficult for individuals with disabilities to utilize fitness centres. For example, if gyms lack ramps, appropriate spacing between equipment, and specialized equipment then an individual in a wheelchair would not be able to exercise in that facility. Further, transportation barriers, financial restrictions, time restraints, and pain can make it difficult to participate in exercise. Accessible fitness centers with specialized equipment are currently in demand as they can increase access to specialized exercise equipment for individuals with disabilities who do not have equitable access to gyms in their community.  


Accessible Fitness Spaces 

Accessible fitness centers help facilitate exercise by providing adaptive equipment and a sense of community through peer support. These spaces reduce environmental barriers and promote belonging. Types of specialized equipment that can be offered include standing frames, sit to stand trainers, and adaptive cardiovascular machines. Virtual fitness classes are another way to increase access to exercise for a larger number of individuals with disabilities as it addresses additional barriers such as transportation and residential location.  


How to start exercising?  

Exercise can be intimidating, especially when accessibility barriers are present. It is important to start small and to find the type of exercise that works best for you and your goals. There are different types of activities to consider trying, including accessible sports, strength training, or cardiovascular training. Setting measurable goals that are attainable for your lifestyle is a great place to start!  




Special thanks to Ariel Gavronski, Stephanie Marrocco, Olivia Crozier, and Stephanie Cimino for their contributions.



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