The key to creating an active lifestyle is a positive attitude. When you have a positive attitude, an environment is created, opportunities are taken, limits are removed and potential is increased. The first step in creating an environment is realizing that young adults with disabilities are all capable and worthy of the same opportunities that are offered to people without disabilities.
Physical activity guidelines recommend getting at least one hour or more of physical activity daily. This doesn’t have to happen all at once and should include a combination of aerobic activity as well as muscle and bone strengthening activities. Examples of aerobic activities include walking (or wheeling), skateboarding, rollerblading, bicycling, swimming, soccer, basketball, martial arts, jumping rope, etc. Basically this is anything that gets your heart pumping and blood moving. Bone-strengthening activities are things like hopping, skipping, jumping, running, gymnastics, volleyball, games like “hopscotch”, etc. Muscle-strengthening activities could be push-ups or sit-ups, resistance exercises, rope or tree climbing, or even games like “Tug-of-War.”
Opportunities can be found all over your community. Check out your local Parks and Recreation office, YMCA/YWCA, bowling alleys, roller (and ice) skating rinks, community centers and swimming pools, camping areas and more. You can also find out more information at the National Center for Physical Activity and Disability’s website at www.ncpad.org or by calling 1-800-900-8086.
Tools and Resources
A balanced diet can help us stay healthy. A big misconception is that eating healthy is difficult. Actually, a healthful lifestyle is easier than you might think. It’s really all about making smart choices, finding a balance between nutrition and exercise and getting the most out of the choices that you make. Working with your young adult to understand the basics of healthy, balanced eating habits can go a long way in helping them maintain these habits and a healthy lifestyle for years to come.
First and foremost, you can’t eat healthily if you don’t know what healthy eating really is. So a key component to healthy eating is to know and understand the recommendations of healthy eating, which can be found on www.choosemyplate.gov. Next, pay attention to portion sizes. Especially when eating out and snacking. These are times when it’s really easy to go overboard because you don’t really know how much you are eating. When eating out, order smaller sizes, appetizers, or cut your meal in half right away so you can take it home and have a second meal. When snacking, measure out a portion (read the label) and put in small bags for easy snacking without just grabbing that entire bag of cookies!
It’s most important to make smart choices about the foods you eat. Here a few easy ways to improve what you eat in each food group:
- Grains: Use whole grains whenever possible. Snack on popcorn or whole grain crackers rather than reaching for the bag of potato chips!
- Vegetables: When talking about veggies, the more colorful and the darker the better. Use spinach or dark leafy veggies in soups or salads. Snack on broccoli or carrots. Opt for a sweet potato over regular potatoes when possible.
- Fruits: Fruit can be expensive, so make sure to buy fresh when they are in season. Stock up on frozen or canned fruit (in their own juice, not syrup or with added sugar). Try to eat a fruit with every meal. Fruit can sometimes make the best desserts even!
- Milk: Switch to low-fat or fat-free milk when cooking, rather than rich heavy cream. Low-fat or fat-free yogurt can be great as a snack or dip with fruits, veggies and even on top of a baked potato.
- Meat & Beans: Go lean! Trim away any visible fat and don’t eat the skin on chicken. Avoid battered and deep-fried, instead go for grilled, roasted or broiled, options. Add beans to salads and soups for added protein.
- Oils & Fats: Substitute some vegetable oil for butter when cooking. Solid fats like butter typically have more saturated or trans fats. Include nuts and avocados as part of your diet. These are naturally rich in good fats and oils.
Avoiding Risky Behaviors
Most people think that living a healthy life is based on how healthy we eat, how much we exercise and the health care we receive. However, avoiding risky habits and behaviors is just as important as those other things. Behaviors like smoking, drinking, using drugs, having unprotected sex, not wearing safety belts and not using sunscreen can lead to very poor outcomes in the future.
One of the best ways to prepare your young adult to make healthy choices and avoid these behaviors is to educate them on these issues and encourage them to understand how participating in them will impact their lives. How will their disability or health needs be affected by certain choices they make? Also, education on the secondary conditions that can occur because of these behaviors is important. Knowing what those outcomes can be can help us make the right choices. Talking with your young adult’s doctors can be helpful in the education process. Don’t be afraid to ask them for help.