Disability and exercise: can they go hand in hand?

Disability and exercise: can they go hand in hand?

In the second of our Nokia Accessibility technology series, Co-Editor Srin Madipalli tests out the Thera-Vital exercise bike, the latest in technology enabling people with mobility limitations to exercise.  

When it comes to exercise and fitness, I’ll be the first to confess that I procrastinate, dither and make any excuse to avoid having to do anything. Does this sound familiar?

By and large, the scope of exercise and activity available to me, as a wheelchair user with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, has always been limited. But then again, if truth be told, I have probably used this as an excuse to not make any effort to find out what can be done to help my physical condition.

Fitness and exercise is probably the only area of life I am particularly lazy with. I’m happy to work crazy hours long into the night and push myself beyond whatever boundary lies in front of me. But for some reason, this drive has always eluded me in relation to keeping myself in good condition.

Now it is probably a bit clichéd but one of my resolutions for 2012 was to change this. But how I go about doing this is the question. Well, super duper modern technology is the answer.

My first step is committing to stand a bit more in my wheelchair at least once a week for a short while. I have a standing frame on my Balder wheelchair which holds me in the standing position (without being strapped to the frame I would fall down like a tree as I cannot move my legs). While it’s a passive form of exercise (as my body is strapped tightly to the standing the frame) it does wonders for my joints and circulation.

When I first stood in my frame in January this year, it was the first time I had done so in a very long time. And it hurt, so I was only able to tolerate a few a minutes! Since January, I’ve kept to this weekly regime (mostly) and I am now able to stand in the frame for about 15. This might not sound like much, but it feels like a great personal achievement!

The second thing I set out to do was to find a way to get my arms and legs moving a bit more. As I have limited mobility with them, I would need to either have the help of someone else, or find a suitable machine, and this is where the Thera-Vital bike comes in.

At the Naidex Exhibition in London last year, my parents came across an exercise bike distributed by a company called Medicotech. This funky bike works to move my arms and legs for me, but also detect the small movements in my arms and legs that I can sometimes make, which would in turn make the bike turn faster.

After a trial with the bike back in January, I took the plunge and bought one. I started off really well, using the bike 2 – 3 times a week for 25 minutes each time. But unfortunately this has now lapsed to using it once a week for around 20 minutes as my fight against ‘laziness’ waivers ever so slightly.

While my initial enthusiasm for my New Year’s resolution may have waned (again, does this sound familiar?), I will persist with this and make sure that keeping in good shape and exercise becomes central to my day-to-day routine.

Other than sharing my personal disdain for exercise and trials to motivate myself, I want to highlight that there are amazing bits of technology out there that allow disabled people to have the same approach to fitness as everybody else.

If anyone knows of any other useful exercise and fitness technology, it would be great to hear about it!

By Srin Madipalli

This article was part of the Nokia Accessibility series. For information on the work of Nokia Accessibility check out their website.

Used this bike or similar exercise equipment? Let our Disability Horizons readers know your thoughts by leaving your comments below, emailing us at editor@disabilityhorizons.com, tweeting us @DHorizons or messaging us on Facebook

Visit our Technology section for more gadgets and gizmos designed for people with disabilities.