Every individual is born with a body that requires nutrients and movement for function. One does not need to be a fitness or sports professional, working in the field, or an athlete, to understand that movement is a human necessity for getting from one place to another in space, for muscle growth, and the development of strong tissues and bones and for thriving both physically and emotionally.
Some individuals may believe that those persons who have limitations due to disability, either which is congenital (from birth) or acquired (due to an accident resulting in a brain/spinal cord or limb injury), cannot or should not participate in exercise because it could cause further challenges, and adverse events, such as pain, secondary to their condition.
Although it is true that careful understanding and consideration of individual factors and cases need to be accounted for, research has shown that engaging in exercise helps to improve facets of quality of life, such as mental toughness, concentration, and focus, ability to understand and react to situations more calmly, and to improve communication and social skills, in addition to the physical competence and confidence that it creates, builds and reinforces.
An individual that has a physical disability, in particular, benefits strongly from engaging in a fitness-based exercise in a gym setting because it not only promotes building flexibility, mobility, and strength but also and more importantly, creates the potential for preventing further muscular and nerve cell atrophy, and also teaches techniques which can allow new nerve cell response to take place with the human brain.
In his book entitled, Spark: The Revolutionary Science of Exercise and the Brain, Dr. John J. Ratey, discusses the way that engaging in exercise and new tasks, helps to promote the growth of a healthy hormone called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which stimulates the growth and development of new neurons (nerve cells) and their
Not only is engaging in exercise necessary physically and emotionally across populations and demographics, but another reason why access to fitness needs to be universalized is to better inform and educate fitness professionals to increase the scope of their work, as well as their knowledge base and skill set to service a larger clientele that is more diverse.
Arenas and platforms are needed in society to create avenues and be the point of origin for new potential; whether in thought or in action. Fitness is one of those avenues which creates re-education and the redefinition of human movement and human potential. How? By making it possible to teach a human body movement through different planes (positions) and at the same exposing the mind to principles of mindfulness, adaptability to adversity, and resilience upon encountering the adversity.
Through a consistent and diversified fitness-based exercise and recovery regimen, which includes exercises focused on increasing mobility, spatial awareness, and Central Nervous System (CNS) Motor Recruitment, and Strength Training, and recovery which includes mindfulness and active visualization, for example, one would be able to learn and re-learn movement which was either not previously physically possible due to an impairment attributed to a physical disability, or to improve its physical execution through consistent training and repetition.
Defining Adaptive Fitness
Engaging in fitness-based training or functional movement is important across populations, but particularly for those individuals with varying physical abilities. But how does one define Adaptive Fitness? One way to define Adaptive Fitness is the practice of scaling or modifying an exercise or complex of movements according to an individual’s impairment, physical capabilities needs, and capabilities. A key aspect for a professional who works with a broad spectrum of clients whether some have more obvious physical challenges and limitations than others, is that communication is an imperative quality to practice when working with clients to understand their needs, goals, and concerns, and to modify programming even depending on variables of the day such as stress and pain, for example.
Flex for Access and its impact on mainstream fitness and diversity and inclusion
Flex for Access is a Registered Non-Profit Organization for adaptive fitness and sports promotion as a means of physical disability and injury management and the awareness of Cerebral Palsy. It is the first organization of its kind, which creates opportunities for both fitness and sport. Its impact on diversity and inclusion has been Global with a Global following on Social Media and National with media coverage and opportunities facilitated for individuals and athletes. It has also had a transformational effect on educating fitness professionals and other stakeholders across the physical and health literacy and promotion field(s).
Donations to Flex for Access, facilitate fitness-based training sessions, yoga, dance, and other movement-based activities for individuals with physical challenges and injuries, as well as sports programs and the purchase of adaptive exercise equipment to be placed in gyms and sporting facilities. With the goal of redefining possibility through pursuing fitness and educating and transforming frameworks of thought and practice, Flex for Access and its leaders and partnering organizations, is excited to continue transforming lives, one flex at a time.
More information about Flex for Access is available at www.flexforaccess.ca and anyone can support the organization on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using the hashtag #FlexForAccess in posts flexing their bicep or engaged in fitness or sport-based activity in the gym or community in order to redefine the discourse of physical disability and leverage
awareness of Cerebral Palsy.