New Exercise Equipment for Wheelchair Users

Institution: Michigan Technological University
Funders (6)
Views (4)

Why This Project Is Important 

Spinal cord injury (SCI) is one of the most debilitating conditions an individual can sustain. Living with a SCI is extremely challenging as most individuals must rely solely on their upper-body muscles to propel their wheelchair, navigate around obstacles, and perform essential activities of daily living. Engaging in exercise to help build upper-body muscle, improve strength, and increase wheelchair mobility is vital for this population so that they can be more independent and have better quality of life. However, several barriers often prevent individuals with SCI from exercising regularly. First, due to general deconditioning associated with a relatively sedentary lifestyle it can be difficult for individuals with SCI to work out at high enough exercise intensities to actually increase the size and strength of their upper-body muscles. Second, there are a limited number of upper-body exercise options (wheelchair, arm biking, weight lifting) and not all exercise equipment is wheelchair accessible or adjustable enough to be used and enjoyed by the user. The goal of this project is to establish a new form of upper-body exercise for wheelchair users that is accessible, safe, effective, and fun.

Project Description 

The Michigan Tech Velovations Enterprise Team is collaborating with Dr. Steven Elmer's research team (Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology) to engineer a specialized motor-driven arm bike called "RENEW-U" which is wheelchair accessible and adjustable. RENEW-U is unique in that it provides a high-intensity workout for upper-body muscles without overtaxing the heart and lungs. Our preliminary results indicate that this form of exercise is much more efficient as upper-body muscles are working hard while only requiring a moderate effort from the person exercising. This will enable all wheelchair users to engage in exercise and reap the benefits regardless of their fitness level. With its unique design and efficiency features RENEW-U exercise will be perceived as safe, effective, and fun. Outcomes from this project will be used to better guide exercise prescription and rehabilitation aimed at restoring function, maintaining health, and improving performance.

To learn more about our multidisciplinary team consisting of engineering, kinesiology, and physical therapy students and project please click here:

Meet the Researcher

Steven Elmer

Dr. Elmer is an Associate Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology at Michigan Technological University. His research interests in health are broad in nature and he uses a cycling model to investigate aspects of skeletal muscle function and dysfunction. Applications for his research range from basic aspects of neuromuscular function to applied human performance in a variety of settings including injury, rehabilitation, ergonomics, and sport.

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of $5,000 fund goal
The average donation for this project is $850
days left
Funding is Closed

What Your Donation Can Help Us Do: 

  • Purchase supplies to design, build, and test the equipment
  • Provide multidisciplinary project-based experiences to engineering, kinesiology, and physical therapy students
  • Help our team compete for larger funding opportunities

$100 1 Funder

Personal thank you note from the team

$500 2 Funders

Michigan Tech coffee mug plus above

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