A Growing Population of Wheelchair Users Will Need Exercise to Fight Off Future Diseases

Jul 05, 2021 at 09:21 pm by pj


 Physical disability in adults is rapidly rising worldwide



Sitting is the new smoking is a popular phrase these days to address the effects of inactivity. In fact, recent scientific studies have demonstrated the dangers of too much sitting can be a risk factor for other comorbidities such as obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, back pain, and more.

But what of those who cannot stand up to move around and are wheelchair bound? Physical disability in adults is rapidly rising worldwide. A growing aging population means older generations will be more likely to suffer from chronic diseases that can increase disability, mobility disorders, and injuries. The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC) reports that there are approximately 17,730 new spinal cord injuries in the U.S. each year. As such, we are seeing a quickly growing population of wheelchair users. 

In fact, the global wheelchair market is expected to see an annual growth rate of 8 percent from 2021 to 2028, to reach 4.9B wheelchair users in the U.S.* With this many current and anticipated wheelchair users, it is important to for this population to find safe and effective exercises to increase physical activity and avoid the health complications that come from constant sitting.

Through proper and safe seated exercises, physical activity interventions can help wheelchair users reduce falls during transfers while improving balance, independence, cardiovascular health, and overall quality of life. 

Those with limited mobility have found great success in maintaining physical fitness through the application of upper body and chair-based exercises. The ability to strengthen your core muscles, upper body, arms, and torso, is possible even for those who do not have use of their legs.

Embarking on a fitness journey as a wheelchair user should not feel like a daunting task. Many wheelchair-based exercises can be done without any equipment, such as side twists, shoulder retractions, and side bends. Others can be done with items around the house or simple equipment such as elastic bands, small hand weights, and a medicine ball that can help with strengthening exercises.

New technology in the market called VitaGlide is also making it easier for wheelchair users to achieve a cardio and aerobic workout. VitaGlide, provides resistance technology that simulates the motions of cross-country skiing (push-pull) or rowing (push together -pull together) while reducing the risk of shoulder impingement.  Through these motions, this technology works to increase heart rate and develop upper body and core strength with cardio conditioning. 

This technology can be beneficial to those in wheelchairs due to paralysis, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and even those recovering from a stroke or shoulder surgery. Users of the VitaGlide have been able to increase strength that allows transfer in and out of their wheelchair with greater ease and even moving from a mechanical chair to a self-propelled one.

Design-wise, the unit is built with a wide "V" opening to allow a wheelchair to enter the front of the machine comfortably while allowing the user to reach the control panel and gliders. The user positions themselves in the arms of the "V" shape which is 33" wide, which accommodate both regular and power wheelchairs. 

Next Step Orlando, a paralysis recovery and fitness center, is one of various rehab facilities throughout the country that now offers VitaGlide as part of its rehabilitation technology.

Exercise and its benefits are not out of reach for wheelchair-bound individuals and can provide social and emotional benefits, as well as stave off future diseases.

Whether you are embarking on a fitness journey or as part of your rehabilitation program, it is important to consult with a rehab specialist to ensure that your exercise regimen is tailored to your capabilities.


*Source: Wheelchair Market Size, Industry Analysis Report, 2021-2028

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