If You Have Limited Mobility, Movement Can Improve Your Self-Esteem

By , Jessica Schatz, The Core Expert
Whether you've heard tales of the "runner's high" or hear Elle Woods' infamous quote about the ties between exercise, endorphins and happiness echoing in your head at the gym, it's no secret that regular exercise has a reputation for making people feel good. In the professional health and wellness community, there has been increasing interest in the ways in which working out can promote wellbeing and self-esteem among both clients and research studies.
For anyone struggling with self-esteem or body image issues, though, such ideas seem far-fetched at best and fictional at worst. Exercise is hard, after all, so why would struggling help anyone feel better about themselves?
While it may be difficult to believe if you struggle with weight issues, are disabled or have tried exercise in the past and failed, there is a link between physical strength and mental strength. With improved self-esteem comes a feeling of being worthy of happiness and a better quality of life, despite physical impairments or limitations. Those who suffer disabilities, handicaps, paralysis, poor or non-functioning limbs, at times feel unwelcome, awkward, and isolated. The same is true for others who may be impaired by obesity, physical weakness that accompanies aging or other limitations. Such situations often lead to loneliness, depression, and other mental health issues. Those facing these challenges need encouragement and better self-esteem to overcome obstacles.

Endorphins Make You Happy—Right?

Exercise releases "feel-good" chemicals—dopamine and endorphins—in the brain. The endorphins produced by movement and exercise boost mood, help you to feel better physically and mentally, develop a positive attitude and provide emotional stamina needed to set and take on personal goals. Movement, to whatever degree feasible, stimulates positive feelings. With continued exercise and movement, positive feelings grow stronger, often resulting in a formerly lonely and isolated person finding interest in exploring new places and meeting new people.
Exercise also helps regulate cortisol and adrenaline, two hormones that the body produces when under stress. As such, regular physical activity can be a continuous reliever of stress and anxiety. With less stress, a physically challenged person can feel stronger, freer, calmer, and have more ability to concentrate on tasks.
While it might sound challenging and feel uncomfortable or even unnatural at first, know that our bodies crave movement. Once you get beyond the first few humps, you'll start to feel increased energy levels, a more positive outlook and so many more mental benefits you never thought possible. Give it time and be gentle with yourself as you get started, and soon you'll start to understand what all the hype is about.

What Could You Achieve With Movement?

Perhaps the best proof of concept is the transformation from debility and lack of self-confidence to better function and self-esteem I saw when working with a gentleman afflicted with Parkinson's disease. Beyond the physical issues, some individuals experience loss of confidence, a change in their overall sense of wellbeing, and other emotional and psychological conditions including depression and anxiety. 
My goal with this gentleman was to help him live a better life by feeling and functioning better. My rule always is to first treat the person, then treat the problem. After a complete assessment and evaluation of this client's physical challenges and thorough consideration of the emotional and psychological factors connected with his situation, I determined his issue was less about tremors and more about the stiffness of limbs and joints. I also noticed a shuffling in his gait and overall low energy. He lacked that "spring in his step."

At the onset, we focused on balance and coordination to target a neurological connection. In this way, the client learned to recognize and sense how movement "feels," which is key in achieving the mind-body connection. After strengthening his mind-body awareness, we worked on combatting the rigidity of his muscles and joints with simple balance and coordination exercises on various pieces of equipment. In time, his mind learned to focus on mastering each move, gradually building confidence along the way.
As we continued to work together, the client gained the ability to add layers of skill and movement, achieving greater core strength, ease of movement and confidence. He progressed in his physical and mental ability, and was able to learn to stabilize and control his movements and thoughts.
While everyone's story and progress will vary due to personal and outside factors, physical activity is integral to achieving one's potential no matter the stage of life or the physical or emotional challenges. The work with my Parkinson's client gave me the gratification of seeing his improved control, balance, coordination, ease and function, as well as the smile on his face, improved color in his skin and that long-lost "spring in his step."
To a person who suffers some hampered physical condition—be it obesity or physical disability—engaging in some level of exercise and movement brings some degree of gratification. One's attitude improves with the demonstration of what is possible with some physical effort. With improved self-esteem and confidence, even a body with limitations is capable of achieving a feeling of accomplishment and improved wellness. Never forget that everyone deserves an opportunity to feel better, function better and live better. 

About the Author Jessica Schatz, The Core Expert, uses her extensive knowledge, skill and heart to inspire others to live better, happier lives. She is acknowledged in the health, wellness and fitness communities for her integrative methodology and teaching of the mind-body connection. Jessica's diverse clientele includes professional athletes, dancers, actors, as well as anyone who desires transformation into optimal wellness. 

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PATRICIAANN46 8/31/2020
Thank You............. Report
ATHENA2010 7/18/2020
I really like this article...I suffer from limited mobility being overweight, bad heart, bad back, and fibromyalgia. It is unfortunate that Emmabe1 took that as a dig at those disabled or that it meant all with limited mobility have low self esteem. This article encourages movement as much as one is able to, whether it is from a chair or even a bed. It is true that getting regular movement helps one feel better. There are scientific reasons for this. Anything that encourages people to move is a good thing! Report
CECTARR 6/16/2020
Thanks Report
KOALA_BEAR 2/20/2020
It can be quite frustrating to have limited mobility & there are ways to work one's body to either recover from injury, keep the other parts active, or as stated above, retrain the mind. Many people do have issues from limited mobility & I thought this author explained things well given the scope of the topic & space constraints of these wellness articles. Report
REDROBIN47 1/5/2020
Good information. Thank you. Report
Finally, someone who understands the hopeless feeling that those of us with physical limitations go thru when trying to be or stay active. Thank you so much! Great article and inspiration. Report
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Thank you! Report
Whether our self esteem is tied to mobility, many of us have issues with self esteem and any ideas are welcome! Report
Whether our self esteem is tied to mobility, many of us have issues with self esteem and any ideas are welcome! Report
Thanks so much for sharing such a great article! I really enjoyed reading it. Report
Singervet, the endorphin don't really make you feel happy. The are considered the "Feel good" peptide hormones because they are designed to relieve pain. At what point the brain releases this hormone is different with each person. The activities you are doing may not be enough to cause the body to release the endorphins. If you hate exercising, you could try a different activity. Raising your heart rate to cardio level is all that is needed to be considered a cardio. Bouncing on a trampoline or dancing like a "fool" are cardios too. Find something you enjoy doing and make it your cardio. Report
thanks for the share! Report
Great article, thanks Report
I have to try and keep moving if I don't want to be confined to a wheelchair. Mild exercise keeps me active even when it is a bit painful. Report
wonderful help Report
people with limited mobility do not necessarily have low self esteem Report
Am I the only person in the world who does not have any “happy endorphins” when I excercise? I’m just tired,exhausted and cannot wait till it’s over even when I’m only doing the 10 minutes Spark People tells us to start with. I have felt this way my whole life or at least since after high school. I wish someone would address this reality for me. When I was at weight watchers and they would ask who HATES excercise mine was the first hand (and maybe the only one) raised! Report
Love the information in this article! Report
This is such an empowering and enlightening article. It recognizes the limits our health, our lifestyle, and our age can impose on us. On the flip side it pushes each of us to see beyond this moment. Modify, do chair workouts, whatever! Learn. Move. Begin. Your body and your mind will thank you for it...in ways you’d never imagined. Ask me how I know... Report
Great read Report
Thank you, thank you, thank you for this article! My world has been rocked by an incurable "orphan" disease, and the past year has easily been my worst. I'm determined to improve my life. Articles like this help! Report
Good read. Thanks! Report
Exercise is a confidence booster, SparkFriends. Oh, yeah Report
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No problem with self esteem here! I certainly have found that doing any kind of exercise, no matter how small, makes me feel better. Report
Don't be taken aback by hyper sensitive people. This was an excellent article Report
Good article. Report
thank you Report
Your heading made me quite angry - why just because we have limited mobility must it be assumed we have a low self esteem? Are you inferring that only people with limited mobility have a low self esteem - I hope not - Exercise is no more beneficial for people with limited mobility than for those who have full mobility!! And yes, exercise can improve self esteem - but not only for those with limited mobility!! Maybe its time more people realise that people with lowered mobility are exactly the same as those with full mobility - they can do exactly the same things, though sometimes in a different way !! Report
Awesome...thanks... Report
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Any little movement helps. Report
helpful article Report
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So true! I suffer from arthritis and the more I exercise the better I feel. My joints still hurt, but mentally I accept it because I feel better in other areas. Report
Great article, thank you. Report
Encouraging and motivating article. Thank you. Report
great article Report
thank you Report
Thank you, I have overcome so much in getting myself active again. I keep pushing myself to do more! Report
Limited mobility and mental health have affected everything about me. It wasn't until I realized that my body has been "perfectly imperfect" and survived everything that I realized it's worthy of love and care, which includes movement! Great article.
good info Report
nice blog!