Technology and equipment can sometimes help you to do physical activity. In this section we explore technology and equipment that might be useful to:
- Provide a source of physical activity
- To help make activities easier
- To help you to progress some activities
Technology can be used to help you exercise and be active, to track and record your progress. There are many apps, electronic equipment and games that can be used by everyone to support them being and staying active.
Electronic game devices such as the Wii, Switch, Play Station XBox among others, all have sensor based interactive games that come as part of the purchase or can be purchased separately. They often require the use of a handheld console to bowl, play tennis, sword fight or boxing for example, or rely on a mat or board for dancing and skiing activities.
Many of the activities can be done in sitting and played against someone else or the computer to add a competitive edge! These types of activities can be particularly good for increasing your heart and breathing rates (cardiovascular exercise), for flexibility, balance and co-ordination.
If you have trouble holding things, wrist straps on handheld consoles for things like the Wii can be helpful to reduce the effort required in holding the console.
If you’re not a fan of computer games - games such as ‘Bop-it’ and ‘Simon air’ are standalone devices that can challenge memory and hand function and get your heart racing as you compete with others joining in!
Home karaoke machines or Karaoke online can be great fun and act as a useful breathing exercise through singing (and laughing!).
Devices with built in personal assistants (such as in mobile phones, Amazon echo/dot and Google home devices) can be used in many ways to assist your activities. They can:
- Time you doing an activity so you don’t have to look at a clock while exercising (particularly useful for balance work and for anyone with visual impairment)
- Set reminders and alarms to remind you to do any routine you set
- Play motivational or relaxing music during or after your exercises
- Tell you a joke, to cheer you up or make you smile or laugh!
Activity apps and wearables
For anyone who plans to do cardiovascular activities or wants to set daily ‘move’ targets, wearable devices such as Fitbits or Apple/Samsung watches allow you to set daily targets, receive reminders, record and track your movement and measure your heart rate. These devices can be expensive however.
You could add any information you gather through your wearable to your plan on this LEAP-MS platform too.
If computer-based technology isn’t for you, there are a range of basic pieces of equipment that can be very useful to help you to:
- Remember to do any activities you set
- Help time your activities
- Enable you to be more active by improving your balance
- Act as weights to help you to do strengthening activities
Timing and tracking
You might use time as a way of setting yourself physical activity aims. For example: ‘To swim 25m in 2 minutes’ or ‘To do 10 minutes dancercise three times a week’. Timers can now be easily accessed – with stop watch facilities being available on most mobile phones for example. However, if you don’t have a mobile phone, hand-held stop watches can be affordably purchased from sports shops and timers can often be set using bedside alarm clocks. You might even find that your oven has a timer facility or that you could use a kitchen timer which are often clearly marked in 5 or 10 minute intervals.
If you want to keep track of what you have done, you can log your activities on this platform (see my plan). If you want to keep a track of what you are doing outside of the platform and log your activity once a week for example, then you might want to use the download and print option available for you to print your plan – and record your activities by hand dyirng the week.
If you use a wheeled walker, crutches or a stick to walk or to help you balance when you stand up, make sure you use this equipment when you are initially starting new activities that require walking or standing. It may be that using your aid enables you to do activities that you just couldn’t do without it.
If you need to use your aid purely for balance, you might be able to use a bar, put your hand on a table or kitchen surface to help you balance if you are starting a routine of strengthening or balance activities and your aid would be in the way.
If you struggle in standing and your posture is better in sitting, kneeling or lying working in these positions can also improve your posture to build up strength, endurance, flexibility and balance and have significant benefit whether or not you are working towards standing.
Walking can be improved by using crutches, sticks and other equipment. This doesn’t mean you always have to use them, as trying without them for short distances (so long as it is safe) can improve your balance too.
If using this equipment prevents you from doing an activity you want to do could you do the activity in a different position or different way? or talk to your physiotherapist about what you might need to work on to be able to do the activity without using your walking aid.
Foot drop aids
You may have been provided with various equipment from your physiotherapist or other health care professionals that you aren’t sure if you should use to assist exercise – things like foot drop stimulators or foot drop orthoses. Even if you don’t use these things all the time, if you are trying out new activities which require you to be as stable as possible in standing, to step or cycle then it may be useful to use these when exercising.
If your foot drop is due to spasticity the harder and faster you work the muscle the more it can become tight and work less efficiently. If this is the case try slower movements, stretch gently and regularly between exercises, and if you take medication to relax the muscles you may need to work out the best time to exercise when the medication is working optimally.. You want your muscles to be relaxed enough for you to exercise, but not so much that you feel generally weak. Your physiotherapist can help you to think about this if you are finding it difficult to get the balance right.
If you want to check on your technique of how you are doing your exercise, then you can use a mirror or your phone/ iPad and record your movement. You can watch what you are doing (or watch it back) and adjust accordingly.
Weights and resistance equipment
If you are doing activities to make you stronger you first need to be able to do the movement well. When you first start exercising the weight of your body part may be enough weight for a strengthening activity. For example, if you are trying to strengthen your shoulder muscles then lifting the weight of your arm may be enough to begin with.
For some people this may be too difficult so we would suggest that you change the starting position for the exercise so you don’t have to lift against gravity. For example, you could make the movement easier by leaning over a little and swinging your arm or you could grip both hands together and lift with both arms. Another option is to place a towel or a ball on a shiny surface or wall and slide/ roll the towel or ball. The same principles apply if you are working your lower limb muscles, you can use your other limb to help you, change your starting position or use a ball or towel to make the movement easier.
If you feel that you could keep going with an exercise and your muscles don’t tire, then you may need to add some extra load to make the exercise more difficult. This can be done using a hand weight which you could buy or you can use items that you have in your own home, such as a can or bag of rice.
You will know if you have the correct weight as your muscles will start to tire after you have done a few repetitions of the exercise. The amount of weight that you need to lift will vary between individuals and is personal to you. For exercising your legs, you may want to purchase and an ankle weight which wraps around ankle and attaches using Velcro.
An alternative to weights are resistance bands, these are elastic and come in a variety of difference strengths that you pull against or attach to a fixed piece of furniture. If you are strengthening your finger muscles, then attaching rubber bands around your fingers and pulling against the resistance of the bands can make exercises more difficult.
If you are doing exercise to increase your flexibility or the amount of movement you have at a joint, then use a towel or your other limb to help you gently push a little bit further into the movement can help.
You may have lots of other ideas about types of equipment that might help you to be more active. In the activity suite we provide lots of suggestions for the use of various activity and exercise equipment. For example we cover different types of bikes and talk about how cycling can be accessible for everyone.
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