Fitness with disability: Mombasa gym for wheelchair operators

By Philip Mwakio: Sunday, February 23rd 2020 at 18:24 GMT +3 | Sports

Hotel Gym instructor, Shadrack Omondi Ogeno has started what is billed as the first-ever physical activity session for wheelchair users in the Port City of Mombasa.

Ogeno who works at the Flamingo By Pride Inn Beach Hotel and Spa said that he was moved by the plight of persons with physical disabilities and decided to start training sessions for them.

Statistic shows that approximately 65 million people worldwide require the enhanced mobility of wheelchairs.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates that routine physical activity programs combining aerobic exercise with muscle strength and balance training improve fitness, function, and quality of life for individuals with physical disabilities.

Ogeno identified the Bombolulu Cultural Centre, a rehabilitation centre where the physical challenged live and work in its expansive workshops that make handicraft, pieces of jewelry, clothing and ornament manufacture.

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At the Bombolulu Cultural Centre Amphitheatre, Ogeno has assembled men and women in wheelchairs.

Ogeno said that picked up the idea of having a training session for persons with physical disabilities three years ago when he met a man on a wheelchair in the streets of Mombasa but with a protruding belly and having lots of difficulties in navigating the wheelchair.

''I helped push him to his destination and later engaged him on the need to start exercising. He was cooperative and we started with a simple exercise like upper body stretches, dynamic movements for toning and flexibility. These made it easier for him to move around without being assisted,'' Ogeno said.

Ogeno said that he monitored the man for a while and could see that his cardiovascular endurance improved too.

''I am determined to help both the normal person and those who have some form of disability hit the gym for some worthy workouts to keep fit and stay healthy,'' he said.

For 40-year-old wheelchair basketballer and sitting volleyball, Peter Ouma, the training offered by Ogeno could not have come at a special time.

'' I am already involved in playing basketball for wheelchair team and extra practise gives me due advantage over the rest in the team. I love these sessions and will not miss a single day,'' he said.

Mr James Kibia, 52 and the oldest member of the training team who contracted polio while aged 2 years said that he has gained a lot of weight over time and wanted to shed some of it.

'' I have even been nicknamed Katumbo(potbelly) . When I heard about the introduction of these training I decided to join and am enjoying every bit,'' he said.

Twenty-seven-year-old Riziki Chibunda whose original home is Lunga Lunga in Kwale county has never practised all her life.

'' I am taking up exercise for the first time since I got confined on a wheelchair,'' Riziki who works in the jewellery section and who aspires to take up a course in beauty therapy said.

Mother of two, Fatuma Rai who suffered physical impairment on her lower limbs after she was burnt by fire while still being a toddler was upbeat after attending the second training since the session was introduced.

'' I sit most of the time and had developed pain in one of my arms but after the first training, the pain eased. I am here to train and follow that my trainer wants me to do,'' she said.

Ogeno noted that People with disabilities also face a number of barriers to exercise.

''Skill at using a wheelchair, fatigue, pain, heat sensitivity, and self-efficacy have been proposed as barriers to physical activity,'' he said.

He added that individuals who only sometimes need a wheelchair may not be comfortable with their wheelchair skills and therefore may not participate in wheelchair sports or physical activities.

Studies have shown that Physical activity has been shown to improve body composition, glucose metabolism and lipid profiles

'' As starters, we conduct some very simplified moderate aerobic exercise backed by music at least thrice a week and strength exercise for each major functioning muscle group twice per week.Ogeno is quick to point out that for the safety of all his students, there is a need to acquire specialised equipment which at the moment they are lacking.

'' We are reaching out to wellwishers to pop in at the Bombolulu Cultural Centre and see for themselves persons with physical disabilities engage in keep-fit exercise. We require training mats, weightlifting equipment, water, uniform among other kits,'' he said.

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