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Medical Moment: Adaptive gym equipment and rehabbing workouts

Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 5:42 PM EST
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More than 17,000 people in the U.S suffer a spinal cord injury every year, and spinal cord injuries are one of the leading causes of paralysis.

Those who require a wheelchair for the rest of their lives may find getting regular physical fitness can be a challenge, but a new technology is helping them break a sweat.

Whether it’s surfing, dancing, or working out, Amanda Perla loves to live a fast-paced lifestyle. But during her senior year of high school, a car accident brought a screeching halt to her active lifestyle.

“I was told that I had broken my neck and suffered a spinal cord injury and that I was gonna be quadriplegic and in a wheelchair for the rest of my life,” Perla says.

“There’s plenty of secondary complications that can occur just from being seated in a wheelchair for a long period of time,” says Travis Allen, a senior activity-based trainer at NextStep Orlando. “A lot of pain, pressure sores, lack of blood circulation in individuals’ bodies. All these things can diminish life expectancy.”

So physical fitness is important. But not many gyms are equipped for people in wheelchairs. That’s why Amanda and her mother decided to launch NextStep Orlando. It’s part of a network of rehab facilities around the country specializing in the fitness needs of those with paralysis. Using adaptive gym equipment, such as the vita-glide, paralysis is not a hindrance to staying active.

The machines allow wheelchair users to adopt an exercise routine that can build up strength to transfer in and out of the wheelchair to bathe and get in and out of the car. They also allow users to do what they thought they could never do again.

Besides spinal cord injuries, the facilities also help those recovering from other neurological conditions such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injuries, and cerebral palsy.

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