Exercises and Alternative Therapies



Physical Therapy Links

Occupational Therapy Links

Movement Therapies

Alternative/Complementary Medicine


Before beginning and alternative/complementary medicine or supplement program, please contact your medical provider.

Please see general web page disclaimer.

Web Pages about exercising for People of Different Abilities.

  • Dwarf Athletic Association of the United Kingdom: http://www.daauk.org/

  • Dwarf Athletic Association of America: http://www.daaa.org/

  • http://jbadner.picturepage.net/fitness.html is written by a little person. It has good discussion on fitness and weight loss, links to weight loss programs for people with dwarfism and Body Mass Index for dwarfism.

  • http://www.expage.com/lpshealth another great site written by a little person! This site has links to recipes and calorie counters.

  • The National Center on Physical Activity and Disability: http://www.ncpad.org. This site contains a calendar, an incredible number of fact sheets, ideas, research data, and more. If you want to find some fun exercises that meet your abilities, this is a great web page to start.

  • Helen M. Galvin Center for Health & Fitness at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago: http://richealthfit.org

  • To promote improved health, wellness, and fitness among youth with physical disabilities. http://www.disabilityoutreach.org. Interesting links for athletes with disabilities.

  • Paralympics http://www.paralympic.org/.

  • Listserve for dwarf athletes: Dwarf Athletes “Pictures of dwarf athletes, links to their sites, and discussion of LP athletes by those who participate.”

Exercises and Movement Therapies Section

  • Bicycling
    Bicycling is a great exercise for dwarfs. On-road biking and stationary bikes put little strain on joints and still provide a good aerobic workout. Mountain biking (off-road riding) is high impact and can lead to serious injury.

    Bicycling is also a sport that little people can do together with averaged sized people. Many YMCA’s and fitness clubs offer spinning classes which also offer the aerobic (gets your heart rate up!) yet low impact workout benefits of cycling with the fun of exercising with other people.

    It is important that bicycles be solid and fit well. Bicycle shops have a ‘fit kit’ in which they measure how the bikes fit you. Some children’s bicycles can fit, but they tend to not be as good quality as adult bikes.

    Some places to look for bicycles:
  • Atherton bicycles, http://home.flash.net/~wheelthg/page4.html or http://www.athertonbikes.com/, makes customs bicycles for dwarfs. They have a lot of experience at making custom bikes for people with many different kinds of dwarfism and are a regular at Little People of America Conventions.

  • http://www.bikee.org/ and http://www.recumbent.com/ Many little people enjoy riding recumbent bicycles

  • www.bikefriday.com. Bike Friday is known for their custom made folding bikes and happy customers. Click here to read an article about a man with dwarfism who loves his Bike Friday.

  • Terry Precision Bicycles, http://www.terrybicycles.com/, makes bicycles specifically for women 5’2″ and smaller.

  • Tricycles for the disabled: http://www.ambucs.com/

  • Bicycles for all abilities: arms-only, leg-only, amputations, blind/low-vision, down-syndrome: http://www.rocknrollcycles.com/

  • More bicycle links are available through http://www.dwarfism.org/ (go to the dwarf store, the search under toys).

  • Do you have a bike that fits you that is not listed above? Please Contact us.

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  • Dancing

Dancing can be a lot of fun. Consider smoother movements that do not require a lot of jumping around. Make up your own dances! Many dance classes, with willing and creative teachers, can be adapted for people with dwarfism. Moving and getting your heart rate up is good.

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  • Low Impact Aerobics
    Some low impact aerobics classes may be appropriate for people with SMD/SED. You can also try a step aerobics class and not use the step. Make sure to be aware of your movements and not move your body too quickly or in a way you can injure yourself.

    In other words, you may need to adapt some of the things done in class, but you can still get a good workout and enjoy the company of others in the class.

    Low Impact Aerobics Links:
  • Visit the Adaptive Web Page Section, http://www.turnstep.com/Adaptive/index.html, Turnstep Aerobics page http://www.turnstep.com/Faq/faq.html. This page is well organized and easy to navigate.

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  • Rowing
    While rowing machines are a good way to strengthen the back and abdominal muscles but also cause many back injuries. They are a tempting machine to use, but monitor your back carefully, start gradually, and stop at the first sign of any pain.

    Rowing Links:
  • You can find out more about rowing from http://www.concept2.co.uk/con4.htm.

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  • Sit and be Fit Exercises
    Sit and be Fit classes are often taught for senior citizens. These are gentle exercises that can benefit people with SED/SMD/Kniest. Sometimes the videos are shown on public television or available from public libraries. There are also exercises you can do at work while at your desk. Senior citizen homes and activity centers may also be good leads for findings these valuable classes.

    Sit and be Fit Links:
  • An Excellent PBS show Sit and Be Fit is a wonderful resource. Visit their site http://www.collagevideo.com/showinstructor.asp?Instructor=Mary+Ann+Wilson for more information. The instructor, Mary Ann Wilson, is truly gifted in demonstrating gentle and fun exercises. Mary Ann Wilson’s show has been on the air for over 10 years!

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  • Spinning
    See bicycling.

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  • Swimming
    Swimming is one of the best exercises for people with dwarfism. It puts little stress on the joints and is a great workout. It can be a fantastic way to strengthen back and abdominal muscles. Sometimes the front crawl can exacerbate existing back problems, as can breathing to the side. Doing other strokes such a back, breast, and sidestroke and using a snorkel while doing the front crawl can minimize the chances of aggravating back problems.

    Read an article about young woman with Spondyloepimetaphyseal Dysplasia who is a competitive swimmer
  • Walking
    Walking is a fantastic exercise. You can go as slowly or as fast as you like, enjoy the scenery, and socialize with friends. It is important to go at your own pace and not carry too much weight. Solid, well-fitting shoes are very important. If you need a to carry things, some people find a backpack on wheels easier on the back. See the Other Dwarfism Resources section for information about finding backpacks on wheels.

    Consider having a podiatrist (doctor who specializes in feet) look at how you walk and see if shoe inserts can help your stride. Visit the shoe section to find good shoes in hard-to-find sizes.

    Some little people have found that taking shorter, quicker steps is actually faster than longer strides. The reason is that when you take longer strides you have to take a break and lift off the ground a little, whereas with shorter strides, you can move more smoothly.

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  • Water-Walking/Water Jogging
    Water-walking and water jogging is gaining increasing popularity. The water provides resistance, but the activity is low impact. It is a sport you can do with averaged sized friends and a nice break from swimming. If the water is over your head, consider getting a life vest that is designed to hold you vertically in the water or some ankle weights and a floatation belt.

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  • Water Aerobics
    Water aerobics is just like aerobics on land, but adapted in the water. It is very low impact but you get a GREAT workout moving the water around. It is also nice because you can keep up with averaged sized people while doing it. It is a good all around workout, especially good for strengthening the stomach and hip and leg muscles.

    Wearing water-walking shoes will help increase resistance and keep you from slipping on the pool floor or slippery deck.

    If your feet do not touch the floor, consider sinking a step stool with a non-skid surface on it or using a floating ‘noodle’ to keep yourself a float. (The teachers should have those one hand or they can be ordered.)

    It is important to bend your knees while doing the exercise and not step too hard on the surface. Otherwise, your back can absorb a lot of impact which can lead to injury.

    Lastly, water aerobics is a refreshing change for people waterlogged and a little bored with swimming laps, and an equally great workout. It is also a good introduction to water for those who do not know how to swim.

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Physical Therapy Links

  • American Physical Therapy Association: http://www.apta.org/. Find out about physical therapy, find a therapist, find out about insurance coverage for physical therapy, and more!

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Occupational Therapy Links

  • The American Occupational Therapy Association www.aota.org. This page has information about the profession, occupational therapy books, and links to other OT pages. OT interventions occur in a wide range of settings including schools, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, home health, outpatient rehabilitation clinics, psychiatric facilities, and community health programs.

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Movement Therapies

  • Feldenkrais
    What is Feldenkrais?
    Feldenkrais is a series of visualization and movement exercises designed to shift habitual movement patterns, allowing new and better ways of movements. There are two main ways of teaching Feldenkrais: Function Integration using hands on approach and also in Awareness Through Movement, a class setting.

    What is Feldenkrais used for?
    Feldenkrais is used for orthopedic problems, posture, flexibility, coordination, reducing chronic pain, and renewing inner vitality.

    Feldenkrais Links:
  • Descriptions, articles, SenseAbility Newsletter and research about the Method: http://www.feldenkrais.com/

  • http://www.feldenkraisathome.com/

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  • Rolfing
    What is Rolfing?
    Rolfing is a technique of moving the connective tissue that surrounds muscles in order to lengthen and balance the body along a vertical axis. Distortions of this balance can come from many sources including accidents and emotional traumas that have never been released. A complete rolfing session consists of 10 sessions progressing from superficial to deeper layers if tissue and eventually covers overall body balancing.

    What is Rolfing used for?
    Rolfing is used for posture improvement and dealing with past traumas. Some cautions include spinal injury from deep tissue massage.

    Rolfing Links:
  • http://www.rolf.org/

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  • T’ai Chi
    What is T’ai Chi?
    Tai Chi is a Taoist Chinese martial art form of meditation in movement, combining mental concentration with coordinated breathing. It is a series of slow and graceful movements.

    What is T’ai Chi used for?
    T’ai Chi is used to reduce the heart rate, relax the mind, aid digestion, fix muscle and glandular problems, and improve flexibility. People who have trouble standing for long periods of time may have to modify their regime. T’ai Chi is practiced my many senior citizens and can be a great benefit to people of many physical abilities.

    T’ai Chi Links:
  • http://www.easytaichi.com/

  • http://www.tai-chi.com/

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  • Yoga
    What is Yoga?
    Yoga is a series of poses and exercises that help people achieve a state of clarity and make the mind and body one. It is supposed to help people become unified with the universal spirit. Yoga concentrates on posture and alignment and control. There are many different methods of Yoga.

    What is Yoga used for?
    Yoga is used for all sorts of ailments including concentration, posture, and metabolic disorders. Some cautions include positions that put a lot of stress on the spine and involve much twisting. Most dwarfs will have to adapt certain poses so it is a good idea to find a very experienced and flexible teacher.

    Yoga Links:
  • For a FAQ on Yoga, please visit http://directory.google.com/Top/Society/Religion_and_Spirituality/Yoga/.

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    Introduction to Alternative/Complementary medicine While alternative therapies might not be for everyone, these treatments have been around for thousands of years. Some, such as acupuncture have some solid scientific studies backing their efficacy, while others are still untested by western methods. This page is intended to give you a brief introduction to some popular treatments as a compliment to conventional western medicine.

    Another reason for including them on this web page is that many western-style physicians will not discuss complementary therapies unless patients bring them up. This science magazine article on http://www.jmir.org/ researches the quality of information about Complementary and Alternative (CAMs) medicines on-line.

    General alternative health links:
  • For more information about alternative and complementary medicines, please visit http://dir.yahoo.com/Health/Alternative_Medicine/.

  • Combining a Harvard education and a lifetime of practicing natural health and preventive medicine, Dr. Weil provides an innovative approach to health care that encompasses body, mind, and spirit. http://www.drweil.com/

  • Complementary medicine schools: http://www.altmedschools.com/

  • Index of alternative therapies: www.onlinehealthresources.com

  • Google’s directory of alternative health links: http://directory.google.com/Top/Health/Animal/Alternative_Medicine/

  • International links and directories of practitioners: http://www.therapypages.com/

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Discuss any alternative/complementary medicine or supplement program with your provider before starting.

Please see general web page disclaimer.

Acupuncture, Acupressure, Chiropractic, Massage

Nutritional Therapies and Supplements

Many supplements provide opportunities for participation in Multi-Level Marketing programs. If you are interested in participating in these, please see the website http://www.mlmsurvivor.com/ for a balanced perspective on multi-level marketing.

Positive Thinking

The power of positive thinking can not be underestimated. It is important to be realistic and keep an eye out for potential complications, but enjoying the activities that you are able to do is important.

Many people with disabilities find prayer helpful. They request that friends and family to pray for them during operations or stressful times.

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Other Alternative Therapy Links