People with disabilities have options when it comes to exercise. You can use adapted pieces of exercise equipment as well as standard equipment to improve your strength and overall health. Work with your doctor or physical therapist to determine where to begin and how to elevate your quality of life through exercise.
You can use the recumbent bike to improve aerobic fitness. The recumbent bike sits low to the ground and provides back support. Feet are easily strapped into the pedals and pedaling is easy with adequate leg strength. The recumbent bike provides a variety of workout options to simulate hills and other terrain. It strengthens the muscles of the legs and inner thigh and minimizes impact on the joints of the knee and hip. The recumbent bikes for paraplegics made by Theracycle work the upper and lower body.
The arm ergometer is used to improve aerobic fitness by utilizing the muscles of the upper body. It provides an effective workout if you cannot use your legs. The arm ergometer is low impact and offers varied programs to challenge people of varied fitness levels. Most arm ergometers offer wheelchair access and other styles of arm ergometers rest easily on a table.
Fitness machines are designed to isolate and strengthen certain muscle groups. Directions are provided on the faceplate of the machine and highlight the action, muscles used, and proper body alignment. Fitness machines for the wheelchair bound are usually multi-station and allow ease of transition from one upper body exercise to the next. Lower body strength training is possible for the person isolated to a wheelchair with transfer assistance from a qualified professional.
Free weights are any type of weight not attached to a cable and used to improve muscle strength. Barbells, dumbbells, and medicine balls are all types of free weights. Free weights allow you to move through full range of motion. You can use free weights from a seated or standing position. Free weights come in a variety of denominations and weight plates make it easy to vary weight lifted. You may need assistance from a qualified fitness professional to ensure proper execution.
Resistance tubes are elastic forms of resistance used to improve muscle strength. Resistance tubes come in a variety of tensions to provide a challenging workout for people of all fitness levels. Lighter color resistance bands indicate light resistance while darker color resistance bands indicate heavy tension. They are easy to use for the disabled person due to handles and other tubes like Thera-band that wrap around the hand with ease. Resistance bands are easy to transport and lightweight, making exercise easy on the road or for the individual confined to a bed.
Before beginning an exercise program, you should seek a physician's clearance. Work with a qualified fitness professional to perform a pre-activity assessment to determine your fitness level and to design your fitness program. If you are taking medications, research what effect they may have on your exercise response.
- ACSM’s Exercise Management for Persons with Chronic Diseases and Disabilities 2nd edition; J. Larry Durstine, Geoffrey E. Moore
- Healthy Alberta: Physical Activity for People with Mobility Issues or Disabilities
- Centers for Disease Control: Physical Activity and Health: Persons with Disabilities
- Theracycle: Safe and Effective Exercise Equipment for Disabled, Paralyzed and Handicapped