I am an exercist. No, not the kind that banishes Demons from people who are possessed. I mean I exercise, hence exercist (see what I did there?). There is no projectile vomiting involved, no head twirling and no crawling up the walls (unless I overdo it). Just good old fat busting.

I like to exercise because it is obviously good for you, not just for helping you to lose weight, but also loads of other stuff. This is especially true for disabled people as we are less active then able-bodied people.

According to an active people survey in 2014 only 17.8% of disabled people take part in sport for 30 minutes a week. This is compared to 39.2% of non– disabled people. So that is a lot of disabled people who are sedentary. I know that some may physically not be able to exercise due to their condition, but if you can you should. Although this depends on whether can get to a gym, and whether they have accessible equipment for you to use.

For me the main benefits I want to get out of it are losing weight and improving blood circulation, and obviously it’s good for my heart. Like a lot of wheelchair users I have poor blood circulation in my legs, so my feet are cold a lot of the time.

As I can’t walk the muscles in my legs are not contracting, so the blood is not getting pumped away from the legs, which often results in cold feet or swelling. When you walk your calf muscles contract which squeezes blood vessels in your legs and physically pushes the blood back up towards your heart. It’s like having a second heart pump in your legs. But obviously this doesn’t happen with wheelchair users. So it’s important to find some way to exercise your legs to get the blood pumping otherwise you could run into problems like I did last year.

Last year I got Chilblains in my feet, which is where blood leaks out of the veins causing what looked like bruises on your feet. When blood vessels are exposed to the cold they contract, and when they are warm they expand. If they go from cold to warm too quickly or too often then blood could leak out causing chilblains. I don’t really know why I got it as I have never had it before, and it’s not the first time my feet have been really cold. But I went to the doctors and they made me an appointment at a foot clinic, which didn’t happen until four months later, by which time it had gone away on its own. The doctor said they wouldn’t be able to do anything about it anyway, so the best thing to do is to keep the blood pumping, and that means exercise. Unfortunately chilblains is a common problem in wheelchair users.

So to help me be as active as possible I have purchased an exercise bike. The one I have is a Motomed bikeviva 2 and is specially designed for wheelchair users. It has two sets of pedals, one for the arms and one for the legs, so you can exercise all four limbs. The machine is designed for passive and active cycling. It starts off with the motor turning the handles in passive mode using a motor, but when it senses you are
making an effort it switches to active mode and you can cycle yourself without the motor. It has a screen which shows you how many calories you’ve burned, it’s probably not completely accurate but it’s a good indicator of how hard I’ve worked. I try to use the bike every other day (if I’m good) and at time of writing I’ve used the bike five times in the last three weeks (for about half an hour at a time), which is pretty good going for me.

I also go swimming once a week at my old school which is a bit of extra exercise, or just to relax. I was thinking about going to a public swimming pool. But it’s better at my old school because I get the pool to myself, and I don’t have people gawping at me. Some public pools do have the necessary equipment like hoists, changing rooms and shower chairs so it’s worth enquiring at your local leisure centre if you are interested in going swimming.

I’m happy to say that I haven’t had chilblains again since I had it last year, so I must be doing something right. I am HOPEFULLY going to manage to lose a bit of weight and keep the blood pumping, and that will hopefully keep the Demons at bay without the need for a priest.

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