Cardio Exercise for People Without the Use of Their Legs

by Jackie Lohrey

Cardio exercise is essential for maintaining good health, especially when you do not have the use of your legs. Without them, you become even more susceptible to risks such as weight gain, weakening of your muscles and reduced heart functioning. In addition to increased physical health, exercise can benefit your mental health and well-being, resulting in increased self-confidence and feelings of accomplishment, stress relief and mental alertness.

Definition

It's possible to perform cardio exercises, or aerobics, even if you don't have the use of your legs, by using continuous movement to work the large muscles in your arms and hips. The longer you exercise and the more active you become, the faster you start to breathe, the more oxygen you take in and, because your heart is also beating faster, the more blood flow increases to working muscles. In the long term, cardio exercises strengthen your heart muscle, burn calories, increase muscle flexibility and stimulate the release of brain chemicals called endorphins that work to improve your mood and outlook on life.

Types

It's important to choose exercises appropriate for your age, overall health and level of fitness. While the fact that you cannot use your legs may require some adaptations in standard exercise routines, there are still plenty of options, including low-intensity cardio exercises such as sitting aerobics, resistance programs, water aerobics, arm ergometers and, if you are physically able, higher-intensity exercise such as wheelchair basketball, volleyball and wheelchair racing. Always talk to your doctor before starting any new form of exercise, and follow her advice for exercises most appropriate for you.

Effectiveness

For cardio exercise to be effective, you need to be very active. The objective is to increase your heart rate to a safe level and then sustain it for the duration of the exercise. There are two ways to determine how effectively you are exercising. First, keep exercising to a point where you are out of breath, but can still carry on a conversation. Second, determine your target heart range and stay within this range as you exercise. Subtract your age from 220 to get your maximum heart rate; then calculate a range of 50 to 85 percent of this number. If you are 40 years old, for example, your maximum heart rate is 180 and the range you should maintain during exercise is 90 to 153 heartbeats per minute.

Schedule

The more you exercise, the greater the benefits. Begin slowly, and as your body becomes more fit increase the duration of each session until you are exercising a minimum of 30 to 45 minutes at least four to five times a week. If it is not too tiring, exercising every day is an even better idea. Before starting your cardio exercises, stretch your arm muscles to avoid muscle soreness or injury.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.