(ORLANDO, Florida) – After a spinal cord injury, it is crucial that patients build their strength to be able to perform daily tasks like pushing their wheelchair and transferring in and out of their chair. However, a traditional gym can be intimidating for these patients, where they not only face their physical limitations, but also the isolation of feeling different in a public place. To help these patients find an inclusive community to continue their rehabilitation, Orlando Health developed a new program to train gym personnel to adapt workouts for those with spinal cord injuries, partnering with a CrossFit gym and training their coaches on their specific needs.
“Patients are able to go to the gym and feel like they’re part of the community there, working out right alongside everyone else,” said Andrea Cooper, a certified therapeutic recreation specialist at Orlando Health. “The encouragement they get from their coaches and other CrossFit members helps these adaptive athletes keep up their routine, which is really important to making daily tasks easier and improving their quality of life.”
Traditional CrossFit workouts are modified to be done in a wheelchair, focusing on upper body and core strength while also increasing their endurance and stamina. “Their functional skills improve every day,” said Cooper. “And each time I see patients who are participating in the adaptive CrossFit program, they’re able to do something they couldn’t do before.”
The goal is to use the pilot program as a model to help more gyms adapt their workouts for those with physical disabilities, encouraging inclusivity at fitness facilities across the country. Maintaining a fitness routine is not only important for everyday tasks, but also prevents long-term health issues that often affect patients in wheelchairs such as diabetes and heart disease.