Keeping active

Peter Williams
Posted by: 
Peter Williams on 29/03/2011
woman swimmer signing in pool
woman swimmer signing in pool

Swimming is excellent exercise

Whether it is gentle tai chi or competitive sport, exercise can improve our health. It can enhance our mood and relieve stress. Exercise can build strength and boost our energy levels. It can also be a way to channel frustration, turning negative energy into something positive. Exercise is also an activity that can be shared with others. It can be a great way to meet people. And it’s fun!

Sport and Recreation Victoria says as little as 30 minutes of exercise a day can be beneficial. It can help to:

  • Improve your bones and muscles
  • Reduce the risk of illness
  • Increase your overall energy levels.

Barriers to exercise

People with a disability can face barriers that make it difficult to join in their chosen sport or exercise activity. Recreation facilities are not always accessible. The cost of participating can be high. Some people do not have the physical capability of participating in all activities. Existing health conditions can increase the risk of injury. There is also the reality that everyday life can be demanding if you have a disability, leaving little time or energy to exercise.

Many people with a disability can do anything they set their mind to. Some of us long to do something that’s beyond our ability, like surf a wave or ski down a mountain. Maybe we can’t do what we desire the most. But if we try different activities we might find one that’s exciting. It could also provide a great deal of satisfaction.

Helps mind and body

I think that staying active really helps both mind and body. Being idle can increase feelings of depression. Even gentle exercise can give us a feeling of exhilaration. It can act like a circuit breaker banishing negative thoughts and feelings. It burns up excess energy giving us peace and helping to calm our stressful lives.

But it’s important to exercise sensibly, and not overdo it. People should find a level of activity that is appropriate for them.

Just about anything

Susan Landolfi lost her left foot after an infection nine years ago. She believes exercise is even more important now she is an amputee. Susan says people with a disability can do just about anything. She says people just need to make some adjustments and be patient.

Susan has a special prosthetic leg for swimming. She needs railings to hold to get in and out of the pool. Being an amputee is stressful for me, Susan says. (But) exercise is relaxing and can be tonnes of fun. Susan says she tries to focus on what she can do, rather than what she can’t.

I think swimming is excellent exercise for many people with a disability. It is low impact so there is less chance of injury. People who have limited mobility or balance can exercise without fear of falling. But it is a shame there are not more suitable pools that are accessible and have warm water.

Access for All Abilities

People with a disability can get other ideas for sports from Access for All Abilities. The program supports and develops inclusive sport and recreation opportunities for people with a disability throughout Victoria. It has been running for over 10 years.

The Access for All Abilities program aims to give people with a disability the opportunity to take part in a range of sports. It also helps to educate coaches and club officials about disability. Training for budding coaches and umpires can also be provided. You can get more information from the Access for All Abilities website (opens new window).


What kind of exercise do you enjoy the most? Let us know in the comments section below.      

Readers comments (4)

Hello Peter,
We are currently undertaking an Accessibility Research study in Kensington and are seeking mobility-impaired volunteers to undertake site assessments for the project. The project is part of my Masters and is supported by the City of Melbourne and supervised by Melbourne University. If you would be interested to assist, or know anyone else who might, please contact Visionary Design Development/ Mary Ann Jackson, 9372 5651 or Hope to hear from you.

I myself swim, three times a week. Swimming definitely leaves me calmer. It's good for my asthma too.

Wangaratta has an excellent indoor heated 25m pool. It has a ramp and a wheel-chair lift for people with disabilities. It also has a smaller program pool with a ramp, that is used for lots of water aerobic classes.

Thats great graham i really need to swim more often like i used to. There are some good facilities around that are serious about providing easy access for people with a disability. The Don Tatnell leisure center in Mordialloc has a ramp, and a hoist for easy access in to the 25m heated pool. The gym, and other facilities are also easy for people with a disability to use.

Peter, your blog post is quite inspiring. I am a Special Olympics coach in Seattle, Washington (in the United States). Exercise must be an important part of everyone's life, no matter the level one's of physical ability. Opportunities for physical activity and recreational sports are limited for adolescents and adults with physical disabilities. I feel encouraged to continue coaching Special Olympics and pushing my athletes to stay physically active!

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