Over the past 10 years research has gained momentum in proving the benefits of regular exercise in helping a vast range of people – not just those looking to get buff or lose a bit of weight, and has given rise to it’s own specialisms within the fitness industry.
The term “special populations” is used to cover a variety of types of people but includes pre and post pregnancy, the elderly, and those with medical injuries and conditions from metal health issues such as depression to physical health issues such as disabilities, arthritis and cardiac rehab.
One of the key elements of resistance training is improving muscle strength (a consequence of which also helps improve bone density) and as such is used to help many people from broken or replacement bones, arthritis, and osteoporosis.
Cardiovascular exercise like walking, cycling and dancing all help improve and strengthen the cardiovascular system and so is used to benefit those with high BP, Asthma and helps reduce a person’s risk of heart disease.
The social aspect of interacting with instructors and fellow class mates or gym users as well as seeing improvements in your health & fitness levels, boosts self-esteem and can help with mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
However, each person will have their own specific needs and can differ widely in terms of exercise limitations and how they should be approached when it comes to both designing and communicating a suitable workout.
For example in terms of programme design Diabetics should use steady and predictable movement exercises and avoid exercising late at night. Those with High Blood Pressure should avoid prolonged static holds and exercises where the feet are positioned higher than the head and needs very close monitoring of heart rates.
As such the industry has reacted by creating new and more specific qualifications to provide instructors with the knowledge to provide the best service possible for the customer, in ensuring that their health improves and many work closely with the person’s GPs, dietitians and/or physiotherapists accordingly.
In general for those that fall into a Special Population, extra care needs to be taken and clearance from their doctor or specialist should be gained before starting a new exercise programme. A number of Health Centres work closely with GP surgeries and Doctors are now able to prescribe exercise as part of treatment – in which case they will refer the person to a local Exercise Referral specialist, who will be able to provide a relevant training programme and which usually includes 2-3 months free or discounted use of the Health club’s gym or swimming pool depending on the persons training needs – so it is worth speaking to your GP first if this applies to you!
Otherwise – always seek guidance from a qualified instructor to make sure that you are getting a workout that is relevant to your specific needs and more importantly – safe!
In truth we are all different in one way or another – some of us are a little more different than others.
One of my friends and colleague, James Vincent suffered a horrific motorbike accident losing the use of an arm and had to have a leg amputated at the knee. Through his rehabilitation he got into weight training and discovered ways to adapt exercises to rebuild his muscle strength and mass and from helping others in a similar situation has since gone on to become a Personal Trainer and is now currently training to complete in his first Body Building competition and goes to show whatever makes YOU different – it doesn’t need to be a barrier to getting fitter.
Exercise doesn’t discriminate – it adapts and everyone can benefit.
You can read more about Jay’s story and follow his progress on his Facebook page here – give him a “like”!