Rise in Scooters and Power Wheelchairs Needs to be Offset with Increased Physical Activity
|Graph showing Rise in Power Wheelchairs|
While powered mobility devices have certainly made it easier for people with disabilities to increase their community ambulation, they may also be playing a role in the rising obesity rates observed in people with disabilities by creating an energy surplus. Not having to push a manual chair or walking short distances with an assistive device (ie, cane, walker) may result in the individual expending less calories per day, leading to a greater storage of body fat. The less someone uses their own muscular system to burn calories the more likely they are to become obese and deconditioned, which can increase their risk of heart disease and diabetes. A few weeks ago we hosted a health promotion workshop for adults with mobility disabilities and one of the participant's combined body weight with the weight of his scooter exceeded the ADA requirement for bus lifts.
As we enter an era where power wheelchairs and scooters become the norm for many younger and older adults with mobility limitations, let's not forget that for every hour spent in a power chair there must be a few minutes of exercise to offset the decline in physical activity. We certainly know how important powered devices are for enhancing the lives of people with disabilities, but we mustn't forget that the reduction in activity could lead to health problems such as deconditioning and obesity if the decline in movement is not offset by increases in physical activity.
Please send any questions or comments to Jim Rimmer, NCHPAD Director at firstname.lastname@example.org.