The average UK national now spends nearly 9 hours every day sitting down, and another 7 hours sleeping. Time spent sitting might be at work, in a car or on the sofa in front of the TV. This sedentary lifestyle is fast becoming a ticking health time-bomb for modern society, but things are even worse for those, like me, who face enforced long periods of immobility. Wheelchair users must deal with all the same risks due to prolonged sitting as able-bodied individuals, but in our case these risks are amplified many times due to our enforced lifestyle:
Prolonged inactivity increases risk of:
Muscular and Back issues
Deep Vein Thrombosis
Brittle bones and Osteoporosis
And sadly, the list goes on...
The World Health Organisation has already identified physical inactivity as the fourth biggest killer on the planet, ahead even of obesity. So I faced a stark choice: increase my activity or face all the problems listed above. It’s the number one reason I started “Exercise for All”, to try to increase the quantity and quality of the physical activity in my daily life.
The exercise that I really missed since becoming wheelchair-bound was obviously standing in a vertical position. Standing is so beneficial for humans – it requires the activation of hundreds of our muscles, from the shoulders and neck, core large muscles in our abdomen, back and hips, large and small muscles in our legs, right through to the muscles in our feet. The benefits of standing in terms of burning energy and boosting heart function and circulation and digestive processes are essential for good health. I didn’t realise how much all these benefits would be missed till I lost them due to my neurological illness. Things were looking desperately bleak for me until I received an Oswestry standing frame courtesy of my dear NHS physio Rhian.
The Oswestry frame – helping wheelchair users stand for over 40 years…
Made near Wrexham (in Wales, where my husband Tegid’s family reside) these simple frames are made from natural materials - a simple ash wood construction, with sturdy leather straps, The frames are surprisingly lightweight (even 8 year old Mabon can move it) yet incredibly strong! Despite being incredibly simple, the Oswestry frame (http://www.oswestry-frames.co.uk/standing-frame) does everything I need to enjoy the benefits of standing again! (photos of me in frame). Yes, I am getting all the physical benefits of standing again but just as important are the psychological benefits – when I am standing I feel like a normal part of the family again – I can look down at the little ones, and compare heights again. As a mother, this in invaluable.
"Standing upright is highly valued by most individuals, both psychologically (e.g. enabling eye to eye interaction) and physiologically (e.g. maintaining muscle strength)."
from the SUMS trial (Standing up with MS - https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/research/sums).