Access-Friendly Exercise Options To Help Everybody Move

With the benefits it has on mood, mind and body, it’s important that exercise is accessible to all

Ryze Fitness Adaptive Studio. Photo / Supplied

Whether you're committed to a team sport, enjoy competitive exercise, or simply like a dip in the pool now and then, exercise does wonders for wellbeing — especially for people living with disabilities and access needs.

“Access to adaptive exercise is so important for the disabled community because, whether you were born with a disability or had a serious injury, we have all at one point or another have felt exclusion and/or depression,” explains AJ Pouoa, founder of Ryze Fitness Adaptive Studio in Avondale. “No matter what kind of disability you have, we have programmes with adapted exercises to suit all [and] we can help people with disabilities reach their health and fitness goals.”

A wheelchair user herself, Pouoa’s fitness studio gives people living with disabilities a place to exercise. “From group classes, personal training, boxing and strength and conditioning, we can help people with disabilities reach their health and fitness goals.”

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Exercise has played a key part in Pouoa’s life. “From personal experience, I felt a great sense of loss after my accident and it affected my mental state. Exercising alongside others with disabilities filled that void and brought some normality back into my life,” she says, adding that the support from other athletes helped her keep going. “It's so empowering to know that we all struggle in our own ways but we keep moving forward against all odds.”

For anyone looking to start their fitness journey or simply get more active, Pouoa recommends finding someone you trust to help guide you. “For people with disabilities, one of the main things you want to look for is a trainer who knows and understands your needs.” A trainer that holds an Adaptive Trainers Certificate has completed a course for training people with disabilities.

As with all aspects of life, there are many misconceptions when it comes to the disabled community and exercise. “A lot of people don't realise that we too are athletes. We are involved in so many competitive sports and athletics that our disabilities make us work just that little bit harder.”

For some other inclusive gyms, classes and resources, any of the below can help get your heart rate up 

Tai Chi: The newly funded Auckland Tai Chi and Wellbeing Inclusive Programme is a free tai chi class for children and young people in the leafy Cornwall Park on Saturday mornings at 10.30am.

Gymnastics: A sport that helps coordination, balance and motor skills, Tri Star’s Disability Gymnastics Programme offers personalised lessons adapted to the individual needs of its athletes.

Circus Skills: Teaching circus skills from their base at Victoria Park, Circability also host mobile classes at kindergartens, schools and community groups, as well as in parks around Tāmaki Makaurau.

Dance: A therapeutic (and fun!) activity, dancing is an uplifting form of exercise. Dance & Arts Therapy and Mapura Studios both offer dance classes for people living with disabilities.

Trampolining: This can be great for coordination and balance (plus it's great fun). Jump hold inclusive ‘sensory sessions’ that offer a more relaxed environment for exploring the springs.

Parafed Auckland: Founded in 1966, Parafed Auckland is Aotearoa’s oldest para-sports organisation and the largest, with a network of 15 clubs that provide sports and recreation for people of all levels — including athletics, rugby, surfing and more.

Auckland Council: Their website lets you filter its locations for their accessibility like access-friendly Manurewa Pools and Pakuranga Leisure Centre.

Thanks to Ryze Fitness Adaptive Studio, Parafed AucklandDisability Connect and The New Zealand Disability Support Network.


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