DME

Functional Mobility versus Exercise

Functional Mobility versus Exercise: Should Propelling a Manual Wheelchair be Exercise?

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To answer this question let’s start by defining what functional mobility is. Functional mobility is the ability for someone to move around in their environment. We all have to move around in our environments, whether it is our home or community, to be able to complete all of our daily activities. For an individual with a mobility impairment, this might mean that you need a walker, orthotics, or for this discussion, a wheelchair to move around in your environment. Using myself as an example - in order for me to complete my daily activities I will move around by walking. This is not exercise for me. I need to be able to move around all day. Now imagine if I had to skip or run every time I moved. This would be not only exhausting, but also a lot of work for my body. I would likely not be able to complete all the tasks or participate in all the activities that I wanted to each day if I had to skip or run everywhere. Therefore, my options would be to either rely on someone else to help or I would simply not be able to participate.


Keeping this theory in mind, then the same thought process should hold true for a person who uses a wheelchair as their means of mobility. If it is exercise to propel the chair, then you can become exhausted before the day even begins. You might not be able to participate in certain activities or engage in your community if you are exhausted because you are constantly “exercising”.

Functional Mobility should not be exercise! Functional mobility is a right for all of us, no matter what form of mobility we use.

Pushing a wheelchair can be exercise, like a brisk walk or jogging. But remember, not all able-bodied people choose this as their exercise. Also, the upper limbs are more vulnerable to injury than lower limbs so “pushing for exercise” needs to be done in a way that does not present a danger of upper limb injury. We will explore this more in later blogs specifically about shoulder injury prevention.

Per Udden, the founder of Permobil, said it best:

“Every person has the right to have his or her disability compensated as far as possible by aids with the same technical standard as those we all use in our everyday lives.”

 

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