Obesity is a major problem in the United States, with 32 percent of adults tipping the scales. But if you have a disability, the odds are even worse. Research shows that people with disabilities are four to six times more likely to be obese. Yikes!
But whether weight is a struggle or not, people with disabilities have extra incentives to shape up. Exercise can ease behavior problems by releasing excess energy. And, as people with disabilities live longer than ever, making healthy choices will inevitably create better living options long-term.
“Being healthy and having a disability is not an oxymoron,” says Amy Rauworth, a personal trainer who serves as associate director of the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability.
How, you ask? Rauworth has the answers to get you on your way.
Getting fit doesn’t happen overnight. So focusing on short-term goals is the key to success.
“Sometimes having a long-term goal can just be self-defeating,” Rauworth says. Instead of saying, “I want to lose 20 pounds, saying I want to take so many steps everyday. There’s motivation that way that’s doable and attainable.”
With manageable goals, you can feel successful right away. And even small successes will have a positive impact on your health. Research shows that losing just 10 percent will create a health benefit.
Meanwhile, stay on track to meet your goals by using a visual aid. Write down the number of steps you take each day. Or, try a star system where you earn a star for completing a particular physical activity. Then tie a reward to the goal.
Participating in a group activity can also keep you accountable to your goals because someone else will notice if you are absent.
The most important aspect to a goal, however, is the buy-in, Rauworth says.
“Ask the person what their short-term and long-term goals are to make sure that person is truly invested in what they’re doing,” she says. “Hopefully as people buy into physical activity they’re going to start to feel differently. Little things will become easier. They’re going to have a higher level of energy with less fatigue. So quality of life changes.”