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Exercise is not only for the able bodied

Published: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 1:15 a.m. CST

Do you like to watch the games? I’m not talking about the Winter Olympics, but about the Winter Paralympic Games. Since 1988, the Paralympic Games have followed the Olympic Games in winter and summer. This year’s games in Sochi kick off March 7.

The Paralympics feature athletes with a wide variety of physical and intellectual disabilities. These athletes accomplish amazing feats of athleticism and should inspire everyone, but especially those who have a disability and would like to improve their health and fitness level.

It is important for everyone, regardless of ability, to be active. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults be physically active for 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week, and that children be active for 60 minutes a day, at least 5 days each week. People with disabilities should follow these guidelines.  If a person with a disability is not able to meet these guidelines, they should be active based on their abilities and by all means should avoid inactivity.

For people with disabilities who want to find out more about being more active the website of the National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability (www.ncpad.org) is a good place to start. NCHPAD serves as an advocate and a resource for people with disabilities. The website offers newsletters, videos, and a directory of facilities and services dedicated to people with disabilities. The site also features a web-based physical activity and nutrition program to help people with disabilities get moving and make healthier nutrition choices. You can also contact your local park district or fitness center to see what inclusive programs they offer.   

For the more adventurous, there are programs and camps in Illinois specifically organized for people with disabilities. One example is the wheelchair basketball camp offered each summer at the University of Illinois. And there is an organization in Chicago that organizes inclusive winter sports camps. 

Having a disability does not mean a person is not healthy or that he or she cannot be healthy. Making good food choices, being more active, and staying at a healthy weight are as important for persons with disabilities as for those without. A healthy lifestyle allows you to have the strength to cope with everyday challenges, and can help you to avoid and manage diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other diseases.

Remember to check with your healthcare provider before becoming more active.

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