Cardio training provides valuable health benefits for everybody — but what about people who can’t use their legs due to injury, disease or any other reason?
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Just because someone isn’t able to use their legs, it doesn’t mean that they can’t also enjoy aerobic fitness activities. There are many different ways to train cardio that don’t rely on leg power to get going. A study in World Journal of Orthopedics states that exercise is especially essential after spinal cord injury to prevent medical complications from paralysis.
1. The Arm Bicycle
The arm bicycle is also called an upper body ergometer. It looks like bicycle pedals with hand grips instead of footpads, and it can provide a tough cardiovascular and muscular workout without requiring the use of the legs. The benefits of an arm bicycle include improved upper-body stamina and strength, core training as it stabilizes the body and increased heart rate.
The arm bicycle is an often used training tool by professional athletes, people in rehabilitation and anyone who hasn’t got the use of their legs for whatever reason but wants to get a cardio workout.
2. Endless Rope Machine
The endless rope machine is a length of climbing rope looped through the machine and adjusted for pulling difficulty with an adjusting knob. It allows anyone to get a rope climbing workout designed for maximum strength or cardio benefit, depending on the resistance level selected.
By adjusting the machine to its lighter resistance setting, anyone who can’t use their legs will be able to pull rope long enough to raise the heart rate into the aerobic training range to realize improved cardiovascular fitness.
Swim training has been a part of paraplegic rehabilitation for a long time. According to Amputee-Coalition.org swimming offers many benefits for people without the use of their legs. Swimming strokes can be modified accommodate a broad range of disabilities, including not having use of the legs.
An added benefit of swimming workouts for people who can’t use their legs is that it's low-impact for a reduced risk of injury, and being buoyant may help relieve the discomfort and strain of dry-land exercise.
Read more: The Best Swimming Workouts
4. Wheelchair Sprints
An article on the U.K. National Health Service website recommends doing wheelchair sprinting on a track or indoor facility to get aerobic exercise. The arms, chest and shoulders will get an amazing workout during wheelchair sprints, while the cardiovascular system is pushed to become fitter and stronger.
Read more: Activities for Wheelchair-Bound Individuals.
5. Adaptive Zumba
Zumba is a dance exercise program using movements inspired by different styles of Latin dance and done to Latin and other high-energy dance music. Zumba has been adapted to be done seated or in a wheelchair so people who don’t have the use of their legs can enjoy Zumba cardio training. Adaptive Zumba offers a way for people who require a wheelchair to enjoy Zumba workouts by emphasizing upper-body moves and "rolling steps" using the wheelchair.
- Exercise awareness and barriers after spinal cord injury; Ashraf S Gorgey;World Journal of Orthopedics;(2014)
- Amputee-Coalition.org:Aquatic Therapy is Serious Fun:Elan Young: (2008)
- Endless Rope: Welcome to Functional Fitness
- Michigan State University:Stroke Technique
- Abilities.com: The Power of Zumba
- NHS.uk:Fitness advice for wheelchair users