Monthly Archive

Wiiiiii!: Adaptive Exercise That’s Actually Fun

1st January, 2008

By: Tiffiny Carlson, United Spinal Association, Action online Magazine May 28th, 2009 
This article was originally published in Action Online and is reprinted here with the express Permission of the United Spinal Association.
“Wii-Hab” uses a popular game system to help people with spinal dysfunction get their bodies moving again.
When you can’t move more than half your body, whatever your injury level, it never bodes well when it comes to getting exercise. A lot of us just give up, thinking getting decent cardio is too hard if you can’t jog, use the elliptical machine, etc. And I used to be in this camp of thinking not so long ago. 
But that’s not meant to dis the therapists I’ve had over the years. I actually have had some great folks who’ve introduced me to a variety of adapted exercise activities, from wrist weights, to the Rickshaw, biskiing, hand-cycling, and more. But none of it ever caught on. It either required too much preparation or was too expensive. I always wanted something I could do at my leisure, that also didn’t bore me to death. None of these fit the bill.
And then I bought a Nintendo Wii last year.
Cardio with a Wii
The popular term is “Wii-Hab,” and rehab facilities all across the country are utilizing the Wii to help people with physical disabilities regain strength, mobility, and dexterity again. If they’re doing it, why not do it at home too?
The average price for a Wii is $250. This may seem like a lot (especially these days), but if I consider what the Wii has done to increase my physical activity, the cost is more than reasonable.
If you know nothing about the Wii, here’s the low-down:
Unlike other video-game systems, the Wii comes with a sensor (a bar you place on top of your TV), that senses your arm and leg movement. And for a lot of Wii games, all that’s required to play is slight arm movement. This is great for low-level quads who want to game, but don’t have the finger movement to use systems like Xbox 360 or Playstation 3.
But it’s more than just having fun. The Wii actually gives you a workout. What’s better than getting a cardio workout and not even realizing it?
Whether it’s the simple boxing game that comes with the Wii (Wii Sports), boxing on the Wii is hands-down the best cardio workout for people with disabilities. Facebreaker K.O. Party is a particularly fun game (you can pick from a variety of amusing characters). Just be careful of shoulder injuries. It’s easy to over do it and not realize you hurt yourself until the next day.
To box if you’re a C5-6 quad: Use a chest strap so you can fully concentrate on moving both arms, instead of on keeping your balance. I use a rubber band to hold the nunchuck controller in my left hand, and the plastic coat that comes with the Wiimote is sufficient enough to hold it in my right hand (without a rubber band). Play around with holding them to see what works best for you.
Here are some other quad-friendly games: Tiger Woods ’08, Shaun White Roadtrip Snowboarding, Winter Olympic Games, Carnival Games, Dance Dance Revolution (with the foot pad placed on your lap), Wii Play (comes with several games that don’t require finger movement, including air hockey and a wacky racing cow game), Wii Sports Tennis (timing is everything with this one), We Ski by Nameco (my favorite Wii game to date. Feels just like you’re going down hill), and Wii Sports Baseball.
For a complete list of every game made for the Wii, and to see which controllers are required to play them, check out the complete list on Nintendo’s site:
A few good tips before buying a Wii or Wii games: Rent before you buy. I prefer to rent my games (you can also rent a Wii system) at Blockbuster. They offer a great variety and charge about $7/game for a few day’s rental.
You can also try a Wii at most GameStops. Also look on for deals on Wii systems before you pay full price.
Our Featured Organization: United Spinal Association
United Spinal Association is a national 501©(3) nonprofit membership organization formed in 1946 by paralyzed veterans who pioneered the disability rights movement.
Our mission is to improve the quality of life of all Americans living with spinal cord injuries and disorders (SCI/D), including multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), and post polio.
The core belief of United Spinal is that, despite living with a disability or mobility impairment, a full, pro-active, and rewarding life is not only possible, it is within the reach of anyone with the strength to believe it and the courage to make it happen. For over 60 years, we have been an active voice in the disability community and a leading provider of outstanding programs and services for individuals with disabilities.
Please support our contributing Organizations and visit United Spinal Association
Tiffiny Carlson is a regular contributor to Action.

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