A disability that leads to one being a wheelchair is a life-altering event. This is heightened in veterans who have a service-connected disability that leaves them unable to walk, in some cases, and continue to serve their country.
According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, spinal cord injuries (SCIs) affect between 249,000 and 363,000 Americans, with about 17,730 new injuries occurring each year. Roughly 42,000 people with SCIs are veterans and, with nearly half of all SCIs occurring in people between the ages of 16 and 30, many of these patients live with the effects of their injuries for decades.
The experiences of the veteran disabled population are quite different from others and can go beyond the injury itself. Many veterans become disabled while serving due to combat wounds, enemy attacks, accidents, or disease. This type of trauma can lead to new stressors such as anxiety, fear, depression, isolation, poor nutrition, substance abuse, and in worst case scenarios, suicide.
As a result, finding coping mechanisms that can help veterans adapt to their new lives while also remaining physically healthy is of utmost importance for this population. A study conducted by the Institute for Veterans & Military Families at Syracuse University found that sport and physical activity not only enhances physical well-being in disabled veterans but also can reduce post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), enhance social well-being, improve determination and inner strength, provide a sense of achievement, and overall motivation for living.
While an exercise regimen can be obtained through some simple equipment such as dumbbells, wrist and ankle weight, and rubber bands, a more comprehensive approach to physical fitness remains out of reach for many veterans. Many live on disability checks and can’t afford to pay for expensive workout plans and home equipment. Therefore, it is important that organizations that specifically cater to disabled veterans, such as Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospitals throughout the country, provide access to state-of-the-art equipment and mobility-assistive technologies that help preserve and prolong the lives of disabled veterans.
The VA provides care to more than 27,000 veterans with SCIs and related disorders each year, making it one of the largest health care systems in the world providing lifelong spinal cord care. There are currently 26 Spinal Cord Injuries and Disorders (SCI/D) Centers around the country designed to care for such veterans. The VA is also one of 23 members of the Consortium for Spinal Cord Medicine, an organization founded by Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) to make care for persons with SCI/D more evidence based.
A study published in 2018 in Military Magazine that surveyed 500 veterans across 49 states found that they are resoundingly interested in the development of mobility-assistive technologies such as advanced wheelchair design, smart device apps, assistive robotic and intelligent systems, and advanced exercise equipment.
Advanced technology, such as the VitaGlide, is perfect for VA Hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, assisted living facilities, or any public gym where individuals need a seated exercise machine that addresses specific upper body muscle development while also offering a powerful cardio workout. It also answers the need for contemporary assistive technology for the disabled veteran population.
The VitaGlide provides resistance technology that simulates the motions of cross-country skiing (push-pull) or rowing (push together -pull together). Through these motions, the VitaGlide works to increase heart rate and develop upper body and core strength with cardio conditioning. The arm ergometers provide a workout that also reduces the risk of shoulder impingement along with a touch screen display that controls resistance independently for each arm, allowing for customized workouts.
Overall, when disabled veterans can access the proper care – including a personalized exercise program with accommodating equipment – noticeable differences not only in physical health but improved mental health with reduced depression and irritability can lead to a happier and healthier life.