Exercise and Recreation

Range of motion exercises and recreational activities are an important part of coping and living with a neuromuscular disorder.

This page contains some important information about performing daily exercise as well as suggestions for other active pursuits. Please keep in mind that exercise requirements and personal abilities vary greatly among individuals. It is a good idea to ask your physiotherapist to recommend activities that may be appropriate for you.

Did you know? Exercise cannot strengthen muscles that have been weakened by a neuromuscular disorder. Once the supply of motor neurons that control a particular muscle has degenerated, it cannot be regenerated by exercise or anything else.

Why do I need to exercise?

  • to keep your body as flexible as possible
  • to keep joints mobile, especially those in the neck, trunk and limbs
  • stimulate circulation and bowel function
  • decrease pain and ease pressure points

How often do I need to exercise?

A person with a neuromuscular disorder needs to move each affected joint through a series of range of motion (ROM) exercises every day to prevent joints from becoming stiff. Activities that relate to flexibility include Range of Motion (ROM) exercises and stretches.

Range-of-motion (ROM) exercises help maintain or restore normal joint movement and relieve stiffness.

Is there a proper technique to ROM exercises?

This type of exercise is usually done systematically, meaning that the joints are moved through a full range of motion one limb at a time.

What if I can’t perform the exercises?

That’s okay! Not every person with a neuromuscular disorder can do a full set of active exercises. When you cannot move through a ROM exercise on your own, you can still complete the movement with someone’s help.

What’s the difference between active and passive exercises?

An active exercise is one you do without assistance, when your muscles can perform the full movement.

Passive exercises are done completely by a helper, who moves the joints through their ROM by manipulating your limb. Passive exercises work the joints but not the muscles.

The transition from active to passive exercise is seldom abrupt. You may find that you can do some exercises actively, some with assistance and still others only passively.

Watch out for fatigue or pain

Moderate to light exercise should not cause excessive fatigue. Symptoms of fatigue include shortness of breath, cramping, increased muscle twitching and a heavy sensation in your arms and legs. If you tire easily after performing range of motion exercises, stop doing that exercise and talk to your physiotherapist about making some changes to your routine.

Pain is a warning sign that exercise is too strenuous. If you experience pain when exercising, contact your physiotherapist. It may be that you are not doing the exercise correctly, or that you need some modifications to your exercise regime.

Where can I find more information?

Your doctor and physiotherapist can outline the exercises that are right for you. Most physiotherapists will demonstrate the exercises and ensure that both you and your caregivers know how to perform them correctly. You may ask for diagrams of the exercises to help you remember the techniques.

Courtesy of Quest, MDA’s Research & Health Magazine

Enjoying Recreational Activities

Staying active can raise your spirits and make you feel good. Unless you experience cramping, pain or fatigue, keep up activities you enjoy, such as walking or swimming.

Ask your community centre or local health centre about recreation programs for people with disabilities.

Or, you may choose to get involved with a sport that has been adapted for people using wheelchairs, such as:

Powerchair Football
Wheelchair Basketball
Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association

Useful Links

Canadian Abilities Foundation

Convenes a forum for the exchange of information to promote an inclusive society and provide inspiration and opportunity for people with disabilities.

Active Living Alliance for Canadians with Disabilities

Offers a wide variety of resources for people with disabilities, including descriptions of different activities and a way to connect people with opportunities for participation.

Leisure Information Network

Maintains a searchable National Recreation Database.

Training Module on Inclusive Recreation Programs

This resource offers a section on Strategies for Families as well as other valuable “how-to” material.

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