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Exercising as a Wheelchair user, and with Spondylolisthesis

When it comes to losing weight, it isn't all about diet. You have to exercise regardless. Why? Because if you diet alone you'll almost certainly lose muscle and not just fat. On a ketogenic or low carb diet, exercising becomes even more important to be able to keep muscle let alone gain it. I've been extremely lucky that in the last few months I've found a PT who not alone has experience of helping wheelchair users get a programme that suits them and their needs, she also has the same spinal condition I do. She even got CES (a type of SCI that Spondylolisthesis can, and unfortunately does cause). The only difference between her injury and mine, is that she's 90% recovered (all of her permanent damage is internal), and I'm not. In fact in February 2015 I was told that all damage is permanent and that the likelihood of me ever walking again is 0. It's something I never have, and never will accept, and it's what keeps me going, even when the pain from working out, doing physio, and having specialist massages reduces me to tears of absolute agony.

With Spondylolisthesis, the need to keep muscle becomes a MUST and not just a desire. Why? Because your back muscles are already working overtime from dealing with a spine that isn't in its normal alignment. The even bigger problem with this condition, is that if you are unfortunate like me in that you have multiple slips, or unstable ones, you're ruled out of 85% of the exercises that most PTs will give to you to do. Do anything that rotates your spine, as well as needing to flex or extend your lumbar region, ESPECIALLY with weights involved, and you've just given yourself an almost certain chance of making your slip worse. Now that might not seem a big deal to some, but that millimetre or two of movement could be the difference between you having no or little nerve damage, to having full blown nerve pain, spasms, spinal stenosis and all the other fun and games that spondylolisthesis brings.

With that, here are the actual exercises you can do, and for those of you who are wheelchair users that do not have Spondy, you can do these ones too, but obviously for some of you lucky lot, you'll be able to do a lot more than what myself and others with this not so lovely condition can.

1. Swimming

Breaststroke is probably the easiest to do, but it still burns calories even if you feel your going slow!

2. Handbike

This a great for wheelchair users who can't use their legs, or those who struggle with leg weakness as it gives you a good cardio workout from your arms and hands rather than your legs

3. Battle Ropes

Again like the handbike, a great cardio workout, but with the added benefit of giving you some resistance training due to the weight of the rope.

4. Weight Lifting (WARNING - Before using ANY weights, check with your surgeon or specialist first as everyone is different, and what is ok for one is not always ok for the other!)

This is probably the most controversial exercise as most people with unstable spinal conditions including Spondylolisthesis are normally told no weight lifting. However, you can weight lift with careful supervision and correct posture. Do not lift any weight that forces downward pressure on your spine, and before you do any lifting, get a personal trainer to go through techniques with you.

Are you trying to lose weight or gain muscle? Let me know how you get on below!

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