It's not always easy to stay fit if you are disabled or lack mobility or flexibility. Fortunately, the fitness industry has stepped up to the plate in recent years and created a range of ways for you to stay heart-healthy and get in a good cardio workout. Adaptions range from cardio workouts in wheelchairs to workouts in swimming pools to devices such as handcycles. HelpGuide.org says, "The more physical challenges you face, the more creative you'll need to be to find an exercise routine that works for you. ... With some experimenting, it's very possible that you'll find something you enjoy just as much."
Aerobic exercise, also called cardio or endurance training, is essential for optimal health. As MayoClinic.com explains, aerobic exercise maximizes the amount of oxygen in your blood, increases the strength of your heart, lungs and blood vessels, and helps protect you from a range of illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity. Any type of physical activity that elevates your heart rate qualifies as aerobic activity, from jogging, swimming and cycling to dance classes or gardening. A total of two and a half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week is recommended.
If you wipe out on the ski slopes and break your arm, or if you suffer from an upper-body disability, there are plenty of adaptive aerobic exercises from which to choose. If you have a cast on your arm, you won't be running or swimming for a while. But you still can get your cardio fix in various ways. An elliptical machine is a good choice for a no-impact workout. A cardio workout in the pool, using a flotation device, is another good choice.
People who are in wheelchairs, lack mobility or are too overweight to exercise comfortably on their feet have a number of aerobic exercise options. They include chair aerobics, which is performing repetitive movements with your arms with or without resistance bands. Another aerobic chair exercise is to simply punch the air, with or without hand weights. There also are machines, such as arm ergometers and rowing machines, that accommodate people with lower-body disabilities.
Fitness professionals are adapting more and more cardio routines to enable people of any age and physical condition to choose an effective and fun way to stay heart-healthy. For example, the Brooks Rehabilitation facility in Florida offers an Adaptive Zumba class for people in wheelchairs or with balance issues who want to rock the Latin beat while sitting down. Handcycling -- outdoor bikes specially designed to pedal with your hands instead your feet -- is another innovation that offers a fun, adaptive aerobic workout.
Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.