Helping the Disabled Meet Unfulfilled Exercise Needs: Excy Success Story with Cerebral Palsy

The first step in making fitness a habit is simply to start. But starting isn’t always easy for people with mobility challenges and disabilities. That’s why we are committed to always doing our best to provide quality exercise solutions. For us, that means matching the quality of big equipment in a small footprint, but also meeting people where they are, while also being able to take them where they want to go. Below is one of our most recent success stories that gets into Hazel’s journey to exercise with cerebral palsy during and after the COVID-10 crisis. We customized a hand cycling solution for her and will soon offer more solutions as part of our mission to eliminate the barriers of exercise for all.

Take a Look at How Hazel Uses Excy

Some Background Before We Dive In

Meet Hazel. Fur baby mom to two dogs (Bentley and Frosty). Wife of Doug for 20 years. Traveler and adventurer who has traveled all over the world from up and down the East coast of the United States to Russia, Portugal, Spain, Italy and more. She has a giant heart who spent 10 years working in social services to help people who need social care. Hazel also has cerebral palsy, specifically quadriplegia cerebral palsy–meaning all four limbs are affected, including head control.

Cerebral Palsy in Strides: COVID Life Surfaces New Challenges

We met Hazel last summer several months into the COVID-19 pandemic. She was looking for a way to exercise with cerebral palsy at home while sheltering in place. Like so many, Hazel and Doug’s life has been turned upside down with COVID. The things they enjoy doing — taking Bentley to dog agility and flyball competitions, walks to get fresh air, dining out, enjoying the cinema — have all been brought to an abrupt halt. In addition, to limit their exposure of getting COVID, the couple had to stop many home service providers who assist them in day-to-day life with Doug having Addison’s disease and also being disabled.

The Obstacles of Exercising at Home with Cerebral Palsy 

With being home so much and having less access to care providers, Hazel wanted to prioritize home exercise. Not only for general health, mobility and independence, but also to help keep her immune system get strong should she get COVID-19. But, it can be challenging to exercise at home with cerebral palsy. 

Stiff Muscles, Wheelchair, Access a Struggle

Hazel’s cerebral palsy causes her to have spastic movements. Her muscles are stiff and tight, which causes retraction of the muscles. But, she finds that stretching and movement can help and assist with flexibility in her limbs. Hazel also has weakness in all her limbs, but particularly the left side. She can grip with her left side, but it’s hard due to poor dexterity and weakness, so she feeds herself and does most things with her right hand. Hazel can not walk or move her legs without help. Nor can she sit independently due to poor trunk control that requires lateral supports to help put her in a correct seating position. In short, access to exercise is difficult, but Hazel refused to give up and found us.

Knocking Down Barriers to Exercise for All

At Excy, we believe everyone who wants access to physical fitness deserves quality access. This includes people with physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy, stroke, spinal cords and more. In fact, the Department of Human Health and Services suggest that those with disabilities and health conditions get the same level of exercise as able-bodied people. However, for many people with cerebral palsy and other disabilities, these recommendations may be quite difficult, if not impossible to achieve, depending on the severity of the disability.

Because of Hazel’s lack of reach, which you can see in the video below she provided when we first met, she couldn’t reach a pedal exerciser on the table with her hands. We have seen similar struggles with people who have had a stroke, or who have shoulder and spinal cord injuries, especially if wheelchair bound.

Hazel Exercises Independently with Excy 

Other positions we suggest for pedaling Excy with your hands in bed or at a table for those with reach challenges couldn’t work due to the configurations of her wheelchair.  So, we created a custom table hand bike system for Hazel and the results have been dramatic in less than two months. Hazel shared this video with us the first time she pedaled Excy. The joy on her face says it all.

Hazel is Making Huge Strides to Exercise at Home with Cerebral Palsy

At first, she could only hand cycle for 5 minutes. Anyone who has ever hand cycled–able or disabled–knows that hand cycling is a challenging workout.

Hazel is now up to pedaling Excy 20 to 30 minutes per day and can feel her heart pumping. She does interval workouts where she pedals forward 20 revolutions, then rests, then pedals in reverse for 20 revolutions. She then repeats the process. When she first started pedaling Excy, she couldn’t talk and pedal at the same time, but now she can. When she needs more intensity as she gets stronger, she can simply turn up the resistance. You can see the progression of her range of motion in watching the videos, but improvements in her reach and flexibility is substantial. She feels fitter.

Indepedence Lights Us Up!

As excited as we are about all of the above, what excites us the most about Hazel’s story is her ability to use Excy to exercise independently for the first time in her life. She simply drives herself up to the Excy hand bike and starts cranking. 

We will soon announce a new solution to help more people with limited mobility like Hazel have even more versatility to hand cycle independently. More details to come soon. Should you know someone who can benefit from the same customization that Hazel has, just reach out and we’ll make it happen.

Look at People for Who they Are, Not at The Disability

We asked Hazel what she wants people to know about those who live with disabilities.

“I want people to know that we might have physical limitations, but it doesn’t mean that we are any different than anyone else. We all really have some form of disability, ours just happens to show on the outside, but we’re all normal. I always invite people to look at the person for who they are vs. the disability. Disabled people have so much to give. It’s really a win/win when we all think outside the box of what’s possible.”

She also can’t wait for the day when COVID-19  is over and she and Doug can travel again, dine out at their favorite restaurants, see friends, and more. But, she also hopes some of the changes brought on by COVID-19 stay the same. For example, having some flexibility to work from home is a dramatic benefit to those with disabilities. Using Zoom also has opened some doors for more inclusion for those with disabilities to participate.

Hazel’s Tips to Exercise at Home: Great Advice With or Without a Disability

During this time of uncertainty due to COVID-19, and all the stressful situations it can bring to our lives, exercise can not only support your physical well-being but also your mental well-being too. Movement can help take away the worries of the day, if only for a few moments.

We asked Hazel to share her tips on what inspires her to exercise daily. Here’s what she had to say!

  1. Being able to set goals you want to achieve, during a workout can be a fulfilling, positive experience,  which can make you feel good on the inside as looking good on the outside.
  2. Be kind to yourself and don’t pressure yourself, your efforts will show improvements in the end. “Slow and steady wins the race.”
  3. As you exercise, remember to enjoy yourself, it’s as important as becoming fit.

We all have much to learn from Hazel’s commitment to her health and exercise. Thanks for letting us share your story Hazel!

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