Staying Fit with a Disability

Staying fit and healthy is tough enough, but for wheelchair users like me, it’s even more challenging. We may not have the abilities that other people do, like hopping on the treadmill and running three miles or lifting heavy weights. Still, I focus on what I CAN do and push myself to the limit.

When I was first recovering from my injuries after Iraq, I was pretty unsure of myself and what I would be able to do as a triple amputee. So, everything little thing that I could do was an accomplishment. Then, I start noticing how much I could actually do and how far I could go. One day, I jumped out of my wheelchair and started crawling to the bathroom. I discovered that even though I was missing a hand and both of my legs, I could still move without a wheelchair.

I think what really helped me was how active I was before my injury. In high school, I played sports and competed as a gymnast in state-level competitions. Having an acrobatic background has helped me to overcome the challenges of having a disability.

One of the activities that I do to help keep strong and fit are pushups. The great thing about building strength in your arms is that there are so many ways to target those muscles. I may only have one limb, but I want to keep it as strong as possible.

Another exercise I do is crunches. The crunches are good for keeping my core strong because my core muscles have to compensate for only having one limb.

Another thing I like to do is simulated running. I jump on a trampoline and swing my arms and my stumps, to simulate the motions when running. It’s a good workout for me and it’s really fun to jump on the trampoline!

It may be tough to overcome any fears you might have about pushing your limits. Just remember the most important thing: It’s about making the change for you. Don’t care about what other people might say or do. It’s not about them. It’s about you.

If you want to start being healthier and more active, talk to your doctor or physical therapist first. Then, take it step by step. You’ll have some wins and you’ll have some failures, but don’t let the failures hold you back.

About Bryan Anderson: Bryan grew up and resides in Illinois. Injured by an IED in October 2005, Bryan is one of the few triple amputees to survive his injuries in Iraq. He is an ambassador for the Gary Sinise Foundation and a spokesperson for USA Cares, which is focused on assisting post 9-11 veterans. Click here to learn more about Bryan.