Many veterans suffer from physical and mental disabilities, but that’s no reason why they can’t live healthy, active lives after their military service is done. In fact, staying active can help veterans deal with conditions like chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and even PTSD. Here are some ways vets can maintain a fit lifestyle, even with a disability.
Adaptive sports are a great, non-limiting, and incredibly fun way for veterans to stay active. Adaptive sports are simply sports — most commonly currently existing sports — that have been adapted in some way to accommodate those with certain disabilities.
The accessibility of adaptive sports has grown significantly over the past decade with the advent of new technology specifically designed to help those with physical and visual impairments participate in sports they know and love. A variety of wheelchair sports exist, including basketball, volleyball, handball, soccer, and tennis (though not all places are great for wheelchairs). Spotters can be used for the visually impaired in sports like cycling and skiing. Many vets like to get into air rifle, trap shooting, and archery, all of which can be adapted to your needs.
Adaptive and low-impact exercise
While playing sports and participating in group exercise is fun and rewarding, you also need to have a plan to get exercise in other ways. Your adaptive basketball league may only play twice a week, for instance. You still need to find ways to get your physical activity quota filled on a daily basis.
Many disabled persons turn to lower-impact exercises like swimming, cycling, and yoga. “The wonderful thing about most activities in the water is that in many cases, mobility issues as a result of a disability are often hugely reduced, sometimes almost completely eradicated. The increased freedom of movement is a fantastic experience for anyone who struggles with mobility on solid ground,” notes DisabilityHorizons.com.
Stretching and flexibility exercises are also popular among those with disabilities, as almost anyone — despite any limitations — can easily perform them.
Why it’s so important to stay active
As a vet with a disability, you’re more susceptible to a variety of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.
“The links between anxiety, depression and exercise aren’t entirely clear — but working out and other forms of physical activity can definitely ease symptoms of anxiety or depression and make you feel better. Exercise may also help keep anxiety and depression from coming back once you’re feeling better,” says the Mayo Clinic.
Exercise releases brain chemicals that promote happiness and well-being. It also gives you a distraction from your worries and gives you a healthy way to cope. Without physical activity, some vets can turn to substances to help them deal with their disabilities, which can lead to addiction.
Exercise can even help vets cope with the symptoms of PTSD. “Exercise in moderation can help those with PTSD. Exercise may give you a break from difficult emotions. It may distract you from painful memories or worries. Perhaps most important, exercise can improve self-esteem. It may create feelings of personal control,” says the National Center for PTSD.
How to stay motivated
Many people find working out with a partner can keep them motivated and hold them accountable. Others find that fitness trackers make their workouts more enjoyable and that tracking their progress can get them excited about their fitness routine. Today’s fitness trackers and smartwatches can measure calories burned, distance traveled, steps taken, heart rate, and many other metrics. For instance, the Apple Watch Series 4 has a large display, altimeter, and heart rate sensor. If you’re looking for a more affordable fitness tracker, the Fitbit Inspire is reasonably priced and has five-day battery life and automatic exercise recognition.
Sometimes, having a disability makes it seem like getting enough exercise and staying active is more stress than it’s worth. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Staying active is one of the best ways to prevent the complications of your disability, and can help you cope with many of the mental problems associated with having a disability.
Credit : Kris Louis of Parentingwithkris.com
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