Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A longer life with Superman bicycle

04.06.2008
A new type of exercise equipment can prevent serious lifestyle illnesses in paraplegic patients. The equipment, which was partly developed at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, was first designed for the American actor Christopher Reeve.

Patients who are unable to walk after a spinal injury have a poorer quality of life and a shortened lifespan than their non-paralysed counterparts. Sitting passively in a chair makes people susceptible to weight and digestion problems, lower bone density, diabetes – and last but not least, heart and circulation problems.


READY FOR INTERVAL TRAINING: Terje Roel is paralysed as a result of a spinal injury. Here Berit Brurok is readying him for a demonstration of the arm and leg cycle. Photo: Vegard Eggen/Gemini

“It’s the circulation problems that are the most difficult for them, and it’s circulation problems that kill them”, says Jan Hoff, a professor of medicine at NTNU. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A new type of exercise equipment, partly developed at NTNU, combined with a new training plan, makes it possible for spinal patients to exercise themselves back to health – at least as far as the heart is concerned.

In an exercise study completed last year, patients who were paralysed from the chest or waist down experienced an average increase in their oxygen uptake by 25 per cent and in their heart pumping volume by fully 37 per cent – after just eight weeks of training.

Never before has so much improvement or such impressive results been documented in this patient group.

Not just a stationary bike

This clever training equipment is called Ergys 2, and was originally designed in the United States. It was Christopher Reeve – who himself played Superman in films, but who became a quadrapelgic after a riding accident – who financed the development of the rehab equipment, in the hopes of improving his own health. But that didn’t quite happen, and the actor died of heart failure when he was just 52 years old. Nevertheless, his efforts gave the world’s spinal injury patients a useful piece of rehabilitation equipment.

The Ergys 2 is a stationary training bicycle, where the patient’s legs and feet are strapped to a leg holder and pedals. Electrodes are then fastened to the patient’s thigh and seat muscles, and electrical impulses trigger the muscles to contract and relax. The impulses are computer controlled to guarantee the best possible effect.

Even though it may seem like artificial training, it is real enough – it’s the patient’s own muscles that are working. And it is movement that demands energy: the blood flow increases, and the pulse goes up. The exercise has an effect on muscle mass, muscle strength, oxygen uptake and the heart’s pumping volume.

Hard workouts, few repetitions

But it’s not enough to focus on the legs and buttocks, if this kind of training is going to make a real difference. The more muscle groups that are involved, the greater the blood flow, and the greater the benefits for the heart. That’s where NTNU researchers come into the picture. They’ve found a way to supplement the Ergsys 2 with an arm cycle, intended for patients who can use their arms without help.

The patients who participated in the training study were also able to simultaneously exercise their shoulders, arms, rump and legs, in a high intensity interval 4 x 4 pattern. That translates to four minutes of hard exercise followed by three to four minutes of easier training – with the entire procedure repeated four times per session, three days a week.

NTNU’s Professor Jan Hoff developed this interval approach several years ago, along with his colleague Jan Helgerud. He uses this interval technique for most types of physical training.

“Hard workouts, few repetitions. There is no other training approach that gives better results in improving oxygen uptake or muscle strength than that”, he says.

A preventative approach

Never before has research documented such a significant effect on the heart and circulation in patients with spinal injuries, as the study has shown. There has been relatively little research overall on spinal patients and exercise, in terms of what kinds and how much exercise actually give beneficial results.

The patients in this study were so out of shape when they started that they were unlikely to reach a normal level. But Hoff doesn’t think it’s an impossible goal.

“We really don’t know, but there’s no reason to believe that the improvements will stop where they are now”, he says.

Hoff doesn’t want to speculate on the implications of his research on the treatment of Norwegian patients paralysed from spinal injuries.

“We’re researchers, not therapists” he says. “But it’s clear that what we’re doing has consequences, both for Norway and for the world. And that gives us a great opportunity to prevent lifestyle related illnesses”.

Unplugged?

Under Hoff’s guidance, Berit Brurok conducted the study for her master’s thesis in exercise physiology. Brurok is continuing her work in this area as a part of her PhD research, in cooperation with Dr. Tom Tørhaug at St. Olavs Hospital in Trondheim.

Because the Ergys 2 is expensive, and because it also requires assistance to use, the researchers are looking to see if the results from the study can be transferred to other activities. Would it be possible to do something similar in a wheelchair? Could it be done without electricity?

If they succeed, it could mean a better quality of life and a longer life for many people. In Norway alone there are 5000 spinal injury patients, while in the USA that number may be closer to 500,000.

Professor Jan Hoff | alfa
Further information:
http://www.ntnu.no

More articles from Innovative Products:

nachricht A ski jacket that actively gets rid of sweat
30.01.2018 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt

nachricht A fashionable chemical and biological threat detector-on-a-ring
12.10.2017 | American Chemical Society

All articles from Innovative Products >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

Im Focus: Coping with errors in the quantum age

Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly

The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

NIH scientists illuminate causes of hepatitis b virus-associated acute liver failure

14.11.2018 | Life Sciences

The unintended consequences of dams and reservoirs

14.11.2018 | Earth Sciences

NIH scientists combine technologies to view the retina in unprecedented detail

14.11.2018 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>