For many, our involvement in physical activity is dependent on our environment, education, and past experiences. Activity might have been defined in childhood as, "go play outside and burn off some of that energy;" during teenage years as, "try out for the school basketball team or walk home from school: it is good activity;" or perhaps during adulthood as, "you need to lose some weight to help reduce your blood pressure, improve your cholesterol levels, etc." The adulthood list of benefits for being physically active appears to go on and on for many of us with chronic health conditions or disabilities.
Yet how can all adults become more active each day? Can we as health care professionals recommend that each client obtain at least 10,000 steps every day? Unfortunately, the answer is no.
One thing that I have learned this month is that health care professionals must address clients within the context of their real-life environments, as an initial step to help them become more active. For example, research has shown that an overweight person with a disability may have difficulty walking two to four blocks without assistance. Instead of instructing a client with a disability to "achieve 10,000 steps," try suggesting that one wheel, roll or move more than the previous day. Clients can wear pedometers on their arms and increase their daily upper-body movements to reach higher readings on the pedometer.
Encourage clients to be active within the context of their environments and educate them on a range of realistic physical activity options.
Feel free to contact Valerie Lawson with your comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org