Moves for every body: Getting fit is easier than you think

You might have already heard how important it is to get regular exercise. If you’ve had a limb amputated, however, or have other physical limitations, you may believe that getting active is all but impossible for you. If this sounds about right, we’ve got great news.

“Even if you use a wheelchair, cane or walker, or have had an amputation, there are plenty of exercises you can do to work your muscles and burn extra calories,” said Kelly K. James, ACE-certified personal trainer, author, and fitness expert for TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly!), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization. “The more calories you burn, the easier it is to lose weight. And exercising not only makes you stronger – it makes you feel more confident as well, which can help spur you to take on even bigger physical challenges!”

James recommends four moves designed for anyone who has mobility issues. They target your back, chest, legs, and stomach muscles and will help improve your stability and overall strength.

“Start with one set of each move two to three times a week, and as you get stronger, build up to two or three sets,” she said.

Thera-Band Row

A. Sit on a sturdy chair or wheelchair with a Thera-Band under one or both feet. Lean forward a little, holding the band in your hands with your arms at your sides, palms facing your body, with slight tension in the band.

B. Stabilize your shoulders (imagine holding a roll of coins between them), and engage your core (torso) muscles, your quadriceps (the muscles in the front of your thighs) and your calves. Now, exhale, pulling your hands up toward your body to bend your elbows. Pause briefly when your elbows make 90-degree angles and then return to your starting position.

Do this 8-12 times to strengthen legs, abdomen, back, and arms.

Note: To make the move easier, start with less tension in the band. To make it more challenging, use more tension.

Leg Extensions

A. Sit in a chair or wheelchair, with your feet on the floor (or wheelchair), arms at your sides.

B. Hold on to the sides of the chair (or wheelchair) as you engage your abs. (Imagine drawing your belly button back toward your spine.) Straighten your right leg as you exhale. Engage your thigh and calf muscles as you straighten your leg, an avoid locking your knee. Pause briefly and then return to your original position as you inhale.

Do this 8–12 times with your right leg before switching to your left leg to benefit abs and legs.

Note: To make the move easier, don’t lift your leg quite as high. To make it more challenging, try doing this without putting your foot down on the floor.

Chest Press

A. Sit in a chair or wheelchair with your feet on the floor (or wheelchair), arms at your sides.

B. Bring your hands together and place your palms together (as if you were saying your prayers). Breathe normally as you press your hands together as hard as you can for a count of five seconds. (You should feel this in your arms, shoulders, and chest.) After the count of five, let your arms return to your sides, and relax your shoulders before repeating.

Do this 8-12 times to improve chest, shoulder, and arm muscles.

Ab Engager

A. Sit in a chair or wheelchair with your feet on the floor (or wheelchair), arms at your sides.

B. Draw your belly button toward your spine. You should feel your stomach move a bit as you do so. Continue to breathe normally for a count of five while keeping your core muscles engaged. Relax for a few seconds before you repeat.

Do this 8-12 times to strengthen and stabilize your core (torso muscles).

TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) is the original weight-loss support and wellness education organization. Founded in 1948, TOPS is the only nonprofit, noncommercial weight-loss organization of its kind. TOPS promotes successful weight management with a “Real People. Real Weight Loss.®” philosophy that combines support from others at weekly chapter meetings, healthy eating, regular exercise and wellness information. TOPS has nearly 125,000 members – male and female, age seven and older – in its network of thousands of weight-loss support chapters throughout the United States and Canada.

Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. Membership is affordable at just $32 per year in the U.S. and $48 per year in Canada, plus nominal chapter fees. To find a local chapter, view www.tops.org or call 800-932-8677.