Fitness Meets Special Needs
Visit with two fitness pros who share their personal experiences designing fitness programs for people in wheelchairs.
B Y S A R A H MCK E C H N IE , MA
Fitness Meets Special Needs
ith the United States undergoing a major revolution in the focus of national health care, fitness professionals have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to act as agents of change. In the recent report Healthy People 2010, the U.S. government declared that one of its major goals over the next few years will be to “promote the health of people with disabilities, prevent secondary conditions and eliminate disparities between people with and without disabilities” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] 2000). Fifty-four million people in the United States have disabilities (CDC 2000). Most of these people have additional health consequences beyond their primary disability. These so-called secondary conditions—the general health issues related to most disabilities–include both physical problems, such as obesity, poor nutrition and lack of overall fitness; and emotional issues, such as isolation, depression, behavioral problems and family stress. Secondary conditions related to a disability can have a considerable impact on a person’s life. For people with disabilities, fitness can play a valuable role in improving the quality of life by alleviating a wide range of common secondary conditions. Fitness professionals willing to develop and perfect the skills necessary to work with clients with special needs are in great demand. Are you ready for the challenge?
September 2002 IDEA HEALTH & FITNESS SOURCE
T E A C H IN G A GROU P
Working with clients with disabilities in a group setting raises some unique issues. According to Dave Reynolds, owner of Dave Reynolds and Associates in Silver Spring, Maryland, and an IDEA member, “Not everyone [in a classroom situation] who has a disability has the same ability.” In fact, in any given class, clients may have a wide range of skills. Some may be able to move their legs, and others may not. Some may have limited use of their upper extremities, and others may have full use of their arms. Still, Dave says, similar rules apply in a group setting as apply in individual training. You need to be aware of the clients’ limitations, understand what will work and know what should be avoided. For example, participants who have had spinal fusion surgery should avoid neck hyperextension or any extreme rotation of the spine. The following class profile provides helpful adaptations for group exercise. The Instructor. Dave Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience working as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor. He has worked with people with a range of disabilities, including spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, poststroke complications, spina bifida and Guillain-Barr
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