Volume 23, Issue 5 September/October 2013 | Download PDF
by Cindy Asch-Martin
Cardiovascular exercise still seems to be a dreaded activity for many people; however, its benefits include strengthening your heart, reducing body fat and surprisingly, stress, which is critical for a healthy mind and body.
There are many forms of cardiovascular exercises that amputees can take part in, with or without a prosthesis; some are better suited for active amputees, while others are better suited for those who are beginners or who may have medical restrictions.
For those amputees who have no restrictions and wear a prosthetic leg and have no pain or discomfort, there are numerous pieces of cardiovascular equipment to choose from. If you don’t belong to a gym or have access to equipment, you can still walk, bike or hike in the great outdoors. This is a popular option this time of year when the weather is nice and you don’t want to be cooped up inside. However, if you prefer to walk, you need to understand the importance of keeping a steady pace.
In order to strengthen your heart or lose unwanted body fat, you must increase your metabolism. This means keeping a pace that makes your heart work harder. If you’re doing it correctly, your body will begin to get warm and you will begin to perspire. It should also be difficult to have a normal conversation. Listening to your favorite music that has a motivating beat will help you develop and keep a steady pace. For the first few minutes, try to stay at a slower pace so your muscles can warm up and get limber. Then, slowly increase your pace; try to maintain that pace for 10-30 minutes. The length of time will depend upon whether you are a beginner or an experienced walker.
One very important aspect when participating in any sort of exercise is that you need to warm up for about five minutes to loosen up your muscles. I often see people stretch without warming up first, or going gung-ho on exercises right away. This is an unpleasant as well as risky approach to exercising. Cold muscles are like hard toffee and are not flexible, and you can easily injure yourself. Besides, you don’t want to turn this into a chore that you’ll dread having to continue; otherwise, before you know it you’ll find yourself making excuses and eventually calling it quits. Having a friend or partner to participate with can be a helpful motivator.
If you have access to cardio equipment, bikes, treadmills, rowing machines and ergometers, there is no stopping you from getting a healthy workout and achieving the results you want.
For anyone who can wear a prosthesis without pain or for beginners that have little to no discomfort, walking on a treadmill or riding a bike is a perfect selection to get started.
Rowing machines work well for those with or without a prosthetic leg.
For those in wheelchairs or who don’t use a prosthetic leg, ergometers are another way to challenge yourself. Some styles have seats, while other types sit on tabletops so you can wheel right up to the table. You can adjust the tension and add more minutes to continue to progress.
Remember: An important aspect of any form of exercise is that you must challenge yourself in order to get the results you desire. To ensure that you continue to make gains, you should change the order of what you’re doing with your exercise periodically. This will help to make your gains more consistent as well as to avoid the boredom of falling into a routine.