You don’t have to be a Paralympic to do cardio training, and many people in wheelchairs love exercise. Although the use of wearables for running or going for a walk is widely accepted, it is curious to know how a wheelchair activity bracelet works.
We are used to hearing that people who walk can aspire to take 10,000 steps a day, but there is no such measure for people who use wheelchairs. Experts say that’s because the recommendations typically don’t consider people with disabilities. The current recommendations do not take into account various types of obstacles for people with disabilities. In fact, there are very few published exercise guidelines for them.
However, moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise is usually determined by measuring factors such as heart rate. This can be a great fitness indicator for some people who use wheelchairs, but it may not be appropriate for all people who do. Some wheelchair users have underlying conditions that can lead to cardiovascular dysfunction and abnormal responses to exercise, making it difficult to monitor exercise intensity through heart rate measurements.
Apple, the only brand for wheelchairs
Apple conducted extensive design testing of their wheelchair tracking capabilities in 2016. As we well know, the company says they are continually improving all of their products to suit user needs.
Apple Watch users can activate wheelchair settings in the Health section of the app, and thus track pushes instead of steps. The iPhone will register different types of thrusts, speeds and terrains, according to Apple.
Instead of a standing target, you will see a rolling target and two different exercise tracking options: outdoor wheelchair walking pace and outdoor wheelchair running pace, which correlate with calm riding on wheels or a more accelerated training.
Limitations when using the activity tracker
Objective data, such as speed and distance traveled , can be more difficult to track. While athletes can wear running watches or other fitness trackers, there are limited options on the market for wheelchair users.
The common activity tracker uses your arm movements to calculate your steps. But wheelchair tracking requires more variables. Wheelchair people vary push styles based on terrain and speed, for example. The type of chair also matters: a very heavy hospital chair requires much more effort to travel the same distance than a titanium one.
A bracelet designed for wheelchair users would allow the type of chair being used to be recorded. Ideally, such a tracker should include a wheel sensor to account for terrain and speed. However, entering more data could drain existing algorithms and quickly drain batteries. This does not finish convincing manufacturers or users, so perhaps the solution would be to acquire a gadget that would count certain data and transfer it to the bracelet.
These kinds of adaptations to existing fitness trackers take time and effort. And consumer fitness companies don’t have financial support to improve measurements for wheelchair users. This is because the size of the wheelchair population is relatively smaller compared to other clients.
Unfortunately, companies are not really interested in partnering with a lab or using research on products.