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Guest post: Breaking the barriers of keeping fit

JoeBreakingBarriers Community member Posts: 3 Connected

By Joe Harman, Breaking Barriers disability and exercise personal trainer and sports massage therapist

Fitness activity is something we can all do, and it helps us to feel strong and healthy, it can give us energy, improve sleep, and make us generally feel good. I believe anyone should be able to access fitness activities regardless of disability, injury or illness.

I created Breaking Barriers specifically to focus on helping people with injuries, illness or disability to access fitness activities, through individual personal training sessions.

What is personal training for people with disabilities?

Photo of a gym with weights and different equipment

Personal Training can be for everyone and can be a lot of fun.

At Breaking Barriers we work with people with physical or cognitive impairments including people who have experienced stroke, head injury, spinal injury, and those diagnosed with diabetes, arthritis, autism, chronic pain, back pain etc. Whatever your difficulty – for example if your disability means you use a wheelchair or walking aids, have lost a limb, or have weakness in a part of your body – sessions can be designed to suit you.

Setting your fitness goals

Specialist personal training sessions should focus on your personal goals. These can be different for everyone. For some people this is increasing fitness or addressing weight or shape. For others, it might be rehabilitation sessions e.g. making a limb stronger, increasing core strength or stability, improving balance or walking, or reducing aches and pains.

Personal training involves working one-to-one with a trainer to complete an exercise routine or specific exercises to help with physical rehabilitation. As well as using exercise machines (if you are able) for running/walking, cycling, stepping, or cross training, there are so many different types of exercise equipment that can be used, such as kettlebells, battleropes, TRX systems, bosu balls, fitness step and free weights, to name just a few!

There are many different exercises routines that you can do, based on your abilities – for example you might use some combination of sit ups, squats, lunges, stepping, arm circles, high knees and other movements, with using weights, exercise equipment or the fitness machines. Don’t worry if you don’t know about some of these things – a trainer can show you, talk you through everything, help you to adapt equipment and exercises to your own abilities, and to find what you like doing the most.

Every session can be different, interesting and challenging! Some sessions may be active and energetic, whilst other sessions may involve opening up or strengthening the use of an arm, hand or leg or completing mobility exercises, slowly and carefully, at your pace. You could be supported to complete exercises without any specific adaptions (e.g. you can use arm weights in a wheelchair or use a TRX system despite limb weakness). You could also be supported to use specialist equipment to assist exercise (e.g. equipment that makes it easier for you to grasp if your grip is weaker), or the exercise may be adapted to enable you to complete it (e.g. completing wall squats instead of free standing squats to aid balance).

Where to train and finding the right trainer

Personal training can take place in your home, in the park, in a private personal training gym space or in a local gym. Look for a specialist personal trainer who is qualified to work with injury/disability and check they are skilled to work with your specific needs and can offer the right workout environment to suit you. You can speak to the trainers in your local gym, ask advice from a physiotherapist or have a look online, where trainers often advertise their services.

Taking the first step

If you would like to consider exercise, whether it is purely for fitness or for rehabilitation purposes to help improve your physical abilities, consider trying a session with a specialised personal trainer. Having a personal trainer supporting you during your sessions will help encourage, motivate and inspire you to achieve more than you thought possible.

If you would like any help or advice or would like to talk about a session with Breaking Barriers, do give us a call anytime. You might also like to look at the English Federation for Disability Sport website or the NHS Live Well Site, or check out Scope’s disability sports pages to get more ideas about fitness activities for you.

Joe Harman Breaking Barriers, Buckinghamshire

07581 039611

Have you got any stories about using exercise or training to make yourself fitter or stronger? Is it something you’ve thought about but have been putting off? Let us know in the comments below.


  • [Deleted User]
    [Deleted User] Posts: 740 Listener
    The user and all related content has been deleted.
  • kenny
    kenny Community member Posts: 74 Courageous
    I have cerebral palsy which leaves me confined to a wheelchair, I have been working out now for ten years, I go to a gym five days a week and modernise class in the evening I need help but find people will give it. I have much improved upper body strength and manage to keep my weight under control. There are many things disabled people can't do but exercise is something for all of us and I recommend it.
  • davidj49
    davidj49 Community member Posts: 63 Courageous

    I am Aspergic and a professional golfer. But have been a  gym rat  and still am sometimes. My problem is that I can't work out when others are around.I need an empty gym and end up going at 3am, and I follow  mostly unknown methods such as PITT, and Doggcrapp, 
    bird wing stretching protocols. The favourite is the's addictive!
  • Diogenes42
    Diogenes42 Community member Posts: 27 Connected
    This is a very commendable project. However, not everyone with a disability is able to exercise. In some disabilities exercise exacerbates the symptoms. 
  • davidj49
    davidj49 Community member Posts: 63 Courageous
    This is a very commendable project. However, not everyone with a disability is able to exercise. In some disabilities exercise exacerbates the symptoms. 
    Depends on which kind of exercise you are talking about :)
  • JoeBreakingBarriers
    JoeBreakingBarriers Community member Posts: 3 Connected
    This is a very commendable project. However, not everyone with a disability is able to exercise. In some disabilities exercise exacerbates the symptoms. 
    Hi there, thanks for your comment :) We definitely recommend getting specific advice about what exercise or physical activity is best depending on the condition or disability. However at Breaking Barriers we believe in working flexibly & creatively to support everyone who would like to, to engage in physical
    activity in some way, whether it is active all over fitness, or gentle small exercises targeting stretching/strengthening/
    increasing movement/
    flexibility/balance etc, or reducing aches & pains. Hope this helps :)  if we can help advise specifically do get in touch. 
  • Sam_Alumni
    Sam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,671 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi @JoeBreakingBarriers - great post!
    What advice would you give to someone who is prone to hernias? I have had two surgeries to repair hernias but due to my condition, I am very prone to them reoccuring, I have had multiple open abdominal operations so my stomach is really weak.  

    I'd love to go back to the gym and start hiking again but Im too scared to do anything that could bring the hernias back!
    Senior online community officer
  • JoeBreakingBarriers
    JoeBreakingBarriers Community member Posts: 3 Connected
    Hi @Sam_Scope thank you for reading. If you could email me and we could talk about your condition and the things you could do & risks of exercise. I would love to offer advice 
  • KaSam
    KaSam Community member Posts: 1 Listener
    Great! We have similar articles to help users keep fit with installing S Health app on their device. With it, you could have a balanced diet and measure multiple indexes of your body. If you have interested in writing this kind of article, please contact and let us know.
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