Fine Physiques

Exercise equipment is big business!

There are plenty of products to choose from and everyone will tell you why their product is better than the next, so before you make any choices, do your research thoroughly.
Products that are specifically designed for people with disabilities are more expensive. Fitness equipment needs to become more accessible, enabling use by disabled and non-disabled people alike.

I have not included vibration equipment as this field is so new and so vast that we shall be covering it in a separate article.
I have, however, included some great solutions that people have worked out for themselves. Leon Venter sent us this photo of his invention. He adapted his old exercise bike and mounted it on the wall to cycle with his arms! So, look around, ask friends and be creative. Therapeutic exercise trainers are available with active, passive or active-assist features:
Active - the individual actively moves the handles through the full range of movement.
Passive - the machine moves paralysed limbs through the range of movement. This helps to maintain the range of movement, improves circulation and maintains some of the muscle tone and bulk. This can help to reduce spasticity in the affected limbs.
Active–assist - the machine assists people who have weakness (but still have some movement) to complete the full movement.
The cost is directly proportional to the number of functions and features with prices ranging from R620 to whatever your budget will allow.


An ergometer is an instrument that measures muscle power or work done by muscles when exercising. They are available in a variety of hand, foot or combination exercise devices that allow people to exercise their arms, legs and abdomen while in a stationary position. The most common ones are cycling and rowing and are very popular due to their cardiovascular benefit.

Therapeutic Cycling Ergometers

Depending on which limbs are being exercised these can be free standing on the floor (in a vertical or recumbent position), wall mounted or positioned on a table.

The MotoMed Viva 1 (left) and Thera-Live (below) are similar in that they can be upgraded from a small basic model to a combined arms and legs trainer. They are both motorized movement trainers that allow passive, active and active-assist exercise. All the MotoMed products have a spasm detection feature which automatically reverses the movement if it detects a spasm or change in muscle tome. They also give training analysis, such as the symmetry training where they give simultaneous feedback about the active performance of each leg. The Thera-Live has an easily legible illumination monitor on the easy to use remote control.

The Thera Vital and MotoMed Viva 2 are top of the range, professional mobility trainers. They are specifically designed for wheelchair users and people with walking impairments. They both have multiple accessories available for both upper and lower limb. The Thera Vital has a large colour screen display for easy operating and feedback of all the important training information. It has a voice controlled safety cut-off, and a sensitive anti-cramp switch which can be individually adapted for each user. It has a large range of adjustments to ensure the optimum positioning while training.

The Thera Joy and Motomed Letto (left) are the ideal systems to provides active or passive leg exercise for patients who are confined to bed.
They can easily be positioned on the bed without having to transfer the patient. They are used to initiate remobilisation, and to prevent pressure sores contractures and thrombosis. The MotoMed Letto has TrainCare leg guides with adjustable knee protection, which enables the mobilization of coma patients and patients with paralyzed legs.
For people with some leg function and trunk control a standard upright cycle can be used. It is often possible to remove the seat and position the wheelchair close enough to use the pedals. A recumbent cycle, or semi-recumbent such as this one from Hi-Tech Therapy, is preferred if the user has limited balance.

Rolling Treadmills

Hand cycling is a popular sport in SA, but with our busy roads, unsympathetic traffic and high crime rate, hand cyclists unfortunately find it unsafe to train on the roads. So it is possible to buy a “roller” where the front wheel is supported off the ground and spins freely on a roller.
This allows you to cycle wherever you want, as hard as you want, without going anywhere!


Rowing Ergometers

Rowing ergometers, like this one from Hi-Tech Therapy, provide the best full-body cardiovascular training of all gym equipment currently available. Use was always limited for exercisers with disabilities as these require at least trunk and arms.
With the development of Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) it is now possible for people with completely paralysed legs to use electrical stimulation on specific muscle groups which results in enough muscle contraction to effect a functional movement. This has the potential to provide a full cardiovascular workout equal to that of an able bodied person.
It is resulting in unprecedented levels of cardiovascular fitness for people with Spinal Cord Injuries with upper and lower body strength comparable to before their accident and an almost full reversal in muscle wastage of the legs.
For info on FES Assisted Rowing and cycling, contact Deon Buhrs at Health Master (R1700) from the Easy Rider Controls stable, is a non-motorised, active / passive fitness exerciser. It provides for either rowing or cycling motions for both upper and lower limb exercises. With minor add-ons other exercises are also possible.

Weight Training Equipment

Weight training machines exercise various muscle groups, which leads to an increase in muscle strength and endurance. Strength can be increased in upper and lower extremities while in a stationary position or in a wheelchair.
Most weight-lifting machines are not designed for PWDs, but they are quite easy to adapt.
The cheapest solution is to buy a standard system and then adapt it according to your needs. JohnGibson, a C6/7 quad uses off the shelf gym equipment. He has removedthe seats to give him wheelchair access and made some gloves as he isunable to grip the handles. Jeffery Yates (above) prefers to transfer onto the seat of his gym and use the equipment normally.

Genesis Fitness is launching the new Inclusive Fitness range, the U-series, designed by Johnson Fitness.
The international Inclusive Fitness Initiative is an international drive to increase awareness that fitness equipment needs to be more accessible, and can be designed for use by disabled and non-disabled people alike.
Genesis have nine models that fullfil the requirements established by the Inclusive Fitness Initiative and their goal is to ensure that all users have unfettered access to a wide range of fitness machines.
Key features include removable seats on upper body machines and multiple or dual level grip positions for persons in a wheelchair as well as adjustability mechanisms for true accommodation.



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