The human body was designed to walk long distances and it will be most healthy if it does this every day. Able bodied people may not walk long distances, but they still go to the fridge and the bathroom and the carpark. This adds up to a lot of muscular work.
Wheelchair users cannot get the same level of exercise unless they go to the gym and really work at it. Travelling in a standard wheelchair uses very little muscle mass and it’s hard to get breathless and pant when you use a standard chair and very few even try for that level of effort – it’s most unpleasant. In fact, studies have shown that fewer than 15% of the wheelchair population get enough exercise to see the benefits. The consequences are very nasty and you really don’t want them in your future. Better to get the exercise because studies show that people who exercise do much better over the years.
This wheelchair uses pretty much all the muscles in your upper body. When you start using the chair, you will have stiff muscles in places that will surprise you because in your normal life, you never use them. You will also find that you can easily get breathless. You really, really need that.
Part of the reason that the chair works as an exercise machine is that it is basically pleasant. Driving on a suburban sidewalk in a normal wheelchair is not really pleasant, so you don’t do it. With this chair, you go fast, with little effort so it’s basically pleasant and you do it.
If you are one of those people who care about it, then a 3km (2mile) trip every evening will take you less than half an hour and will be a Good Thing. On a smooth sidewalk, you can aim at doing it in 20 – 30 minutes. You’ll be panting at the end. Your arms will get very strong and you will feel much better. It won’t damage anything.
For those who feel a bit lonely and isolated, this is a way to get out and meet people. For instance, you can join a walking club. Most towns have them. They are very welcoming and it will be easy for you to get fit enough to be outpace them. The fastest kid in the flock!
- Morgan KA, Paton S, Patten A, Tucker S, Walker K. Community-based exercise goals of persons with spinal cord injury: Interpreted using the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health. The Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine 2021; 1-10.