Exercise machines typically come in categories from the more beginner, entry-level options to those that are more professional for experienced users. But, what about people that have mobility issues, coordination problems and other disabilities? Are all beginner models actually suitable for everyone or just the able-bodied that are new to working out?
The good news for those with limitations in their movements and motor skills is that there are models out there that are suitable. All you have to do is look at the shape of the frame, the safety features on offer and the programs available. Here are some top tips to consider.
Choose an accessible machine
There are some amazing machines out there that can work wonders for the fit and able. But, many people with mobility and balance issues can wonder how they are even meant to get into position. It is important to find a machine, in whatever style you prefer, where the designers made it easy for users to get on and off. Examples of this include the following:
~ a low, step-through design on an exercise bike
~ a shorter height on the footplates of an elliptical machine
~ a low, wide belt on a treadmill
~ a rower that isn’t too low to the ground
Step-through designs on bikes are ideal because you can sit down on the seat, at just the right height, and not have to worry about lifting your legs over the frame. The alternative is the x-frame bike and while those folding mechanisms are great for storage, they aren’t ideal for those that struggle to lift their legs that far. Choosing elliptical machines and treadmills that are low to the ground also helps as it is easy to step on and off. As for rowers, be careful that they aren’t too low to the ground if you will struggle to get back up.
Choose a stable machine
Another problem with some of those compact folding machines like the x-frame bikes is that they don’t always have the stability needed to help you feel secure as you workout. If you are aware of your limitations and lower range of motion, this can affect confidence when working out. Therefore, a wobbly frame or flimsy stand isn’t going to help. Look for machines that have great customer feedback about the build quality. Look for heavier models that will stay in place. If choosing a bike, look for one with wide stabilizing feet. If you want a treadmill, look for one with a thicker frame around the handlebars.
Safety doesn’t just come from the stability of the machine itself. There can also be a host of other features on-board that provide a little extra peace of mind for users. Look out for treadmills that have an emergency stop system. This means that you can attach a clip to your clothes and if the connection breaks, because you fell or had to step away, the machine will shut down.
Choose a machine where you can focus on one area in comfort
If you are keen to start working out to improve specific mobility issues then you can choose a machine that targets a particular area. Perhaps you are rehabbing an injury or coming back from a surgical procedure. For example, you might need to work on your knee at a gentle pace on an exercise machine for a little while. Or you might have a weakness in one of your legs that requires the help of a treadmill. You can do so while ensuring that the rest of your body is as comfortable as possible. You can remain well-rested with your attention on that injury.
One way to do this is to try a recumbent exercise bike. This allows you to sit back in a more comfortable, supportive reclining seat as you pedal. There is less focus on your core or posture and you can just concentrate on the motion of your legs. Some machines have a surprising amount of padding and may have other tools like media shelves and music systems to add to the enjoyment factor. Of course, you can lean toward machines of any variety that are more comfortable if you are worried about pain or discomfort while exercising. Look at the padding on the handlebars, the seat cushion and the smooth motion of the mechanisms.
Choose a machine that won’t push you too far too soon
If you have limited mobility and can only handle short distances, slower speeds or smaller strides, make sure that the machine can handle those needs. The lower settings must be comfortable enough for your current abilities. This means paying attention to the following settings:
~ the lowest speed setting on a treadmill
~ the lowest stride length on an elliptical machine
~ the lowest resistance levels on an exercise bike or rower
You can start as small as you need to, to gain confidence and make gradual progress with your fitness as mobility. If you need a treadmill with a comfortable walking speed then that is fine. The same is true for the intensity of any bikes or rowers. Figure out your starting point, get used to the machine and slowly build on your abilities from there. As with all these points, it helps to read user feedback to see how other people in your situation managed with the settings on offer.
Find the model that is right for you
Don’t assume that you can’t use a certain type of machine just because it seems like a more intense or professional option. There are always options out there that have a more accessible design or range of programs for those with limited abilities. Besides, if you want to improve upon your current capabilities then you need higher levels and goals to obtain. Focus on the ease of use and initial programming so that you can find something where you can get comfortable with ease. Once you have that confidence to work out and test your potential it should be long before you see the benefits.
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