How Physical Activity Impacts Those With Cognitive Disabilities
As humans, being active is part of what keeps us healthy. This is not only true for our physical well-being but also for the wellness of our minds. Individuals who live with intellectual limitations face an increased susceptibility to conditions such as cardiovascular issues and hypothyroidism, among others. Consequently, it’s more important than ever to stay active to improve our overall well-being.
Physical activity can positively impact those living with cognitive disabilities by improving cognitive function, motor skills, coordination, bone and muscle strength and overall physical health. When we participate in physical activities it also helps to improve your mood, reduce anxiety, promote skill development and enhance social interaction.
At Maple, we seek to inspire a positive change in the lives of those living with disabilities and we believe physical activity and interaction with others play a crucial role in improving our quality of life. If you’re considering incorporating more physical activity into you or your loved one’s routine then we’d love to help you explore the significant benefits and positive effects that engaging in sports, athletics, strength building and other activities can have on individuals with cognitive disabilities.
What are the benefits of physical activity for people with cognitive disabilities?
There are numerous advantages to incorporating regular physical activity into the lives of those with cognitive disabilities. Here are some of the most important benefits:
Strengthen bones and muscles
Individuals with cognitive disabilities may already face challenges with movement and coordination, so building muscle strength and bone density can help to maintain and improve their ability to perform daily activities. It can also improve their mobility functions which consequently reduces the risk of falls and related injuries.
Improve mood and mental well-being
Physical activity is known to have positive effects on our mood and emotional well-being. When we exercise, our body releases natural mood enhancers called endorphins. This can help to reduce stress, anxiety and depression and contribute to a more positive and stable emotional state.
When we play sports we are learning and developing many skills besides the sport itself. Physical activities often require quick thinking, decision-making and strategy planning. Engaging in team sports, fitness classes or recreational activities can stimulate cognitive skills such as problem-solving, concentration, attention to detail and spatial reasoning.
Improve motor skills and coordination
Many cognitive disabilities are associated with challenges in motor skills and coordination. By participating in regular physical activity we can help to improve these skills through repetitive movements, balance exercises, and coordinated activities, which can be translated into daily activities.
Physical activity can be a great tool for releasing excess energy and restlessness. Additionally, structured physical activities can help individuals to effectively manage their behaviour and reduce impulsivity.
Participating in group sports and activities provides valuable opportunities for social interaction. Many physical activities involve verbal and nonverbal communication. These interactions with others can help to develop social and communication skills such as taking turns, listening to others, conveying intentions, responding to cues, and effectively communicating ideas and feelings with peers.
Improve cardiovascular health
Intellectual disabilities can often cause a delay in the development of motor skills, which can introduce challenges when it comes to activities such as running and other aerobic activities. As a consequence of these challenges, those living with cognitive impairments often tend to lead more sedentary lifestyles. Any activity that increases the heart rate on a regular basis can be highly beneficial to preventing cardiovascular issues in the future.
Decrease risk of obesity
As well as the possibility of leading a more inactive lifestyle, people living with Down syndrome and other cognitive disabilities have a higher risk of developing hypothyroidism as well as other weight-related health issues. By staying active and engaging in strength building exercises, we can help to manage body weight by increasing muscle mass and boosting the metabolism.
Confidence and self-esteem
Successfully participating in physical activities and improving skills as well as maintaining our emotional and physical well-being can play a role in boosting confidence and self-esteem. Positive experiences we have when playing sports and interacting with others can contribute to a greater sense of self-worth and help us to have more belief in our abilities and achievements.
How can people with cognitive disabilities engage in physical activity?
With a personalised approach and robust support network, people of all abilities can actively engage in team sports and athletics. There are certain strategies and adaptations that we can tailor to our unique needs and abilities that can greatly help us to participate. Together with your support worker, physical therapist or fitness instructor you can create a personalised plan to incorporate your choice of physical activities into your daily routines.
With the help of your support worker you can seek out inclusive and adaptive physical activity programs in your area that are designed to accommodate individuals with cognitive disabilities. These programs may exist at local community centres, schools or specialised organisations such as Athletics NSW. The use of adapted equipment such as resistance bands, stability balls or modified sports equipment can help to make activities more accessible.
What physical activities can people with disabilities do?
The type of physical activity that people with disabilities can do really depends on their own abilities; however, most activities can be tailored to match anyone’s unique abilities. That’s where the presence of a support worker can be invaluable. Maple’s knowledgeable support workers possess a wealth of experience in integrating physical activities into participants’ routines.
We are adept at collaborating with you, taking into account your interests and abilities, to introduce a range of opportunities. Whether it’s football, tennis, yoga, gymnastics, dance, walking, rowing, weightlifting, or even cross country skiing, our aim is to seamlessly incorporate enjoyable and advantageous exercises that cater to you or your loved one’s well-being.
If you’d like to learn more about how to incorporate physical activity into your daily routines and find local programs, please get in touch with us at Maple Community Services.
Maple Services takes great pride in its strategic partnerships with Athletics NSW and various local community sporting organisations, which have become a cornerstone of its commitment to fostering education and creating opportunities for the disabled community across Australia.
Through these collaborations, Maple Services extends its reach beyond traditional community services, empowering individuals with disabilities through tailored physical activity programs and inclusive sports environments. By offering a platform for education, engagement, and skill development, Maple Services’ partnerships epitomise its dedication to enhancing the lives of those it serves.
This is just another reason as to why people choose Maple for their Community Services needs.