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New technology gets seniors pedalling

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Residents at a Saanich residence for seniors are benefitting from a CanAssist technology that encourages them to exercise by providing engaging virtual environments through which to pedal – whether by hand or by foot.

The Motivational Cycle is primarily a software project, with a small amount of customized hardware included. The system connects a variety of commercial pedaling machines – such as a stationary bike or a hand-and-foot Active Passive Trainer – to the operation of videos that show ever-changing scenes, such as beautiful country roads and vibrant cityscapes.

CanAssist recently delivered its new Motivational Cycle technology to a complex care residence in Saanich, called The Heights at Mt. View.

Staff members at these centres say the Motivational Cycle is increasing users' motivation to exercise, thereby improving their overall health and well-being.

One local occupational therapist chose scenes from Scotland and Panama to initially test the technology with two older people who use an Active Passive Trainer (APT).

“They loved it!“ said Debbie Heron, of The Heights. “One fellow arm-pedaled five kilometres in 15 minutes, slowing for the sheep.” She said the gentleman usually requires regular coaching to keep him going on the APT, but not this time as the video captured his interest until he tired.

How it works

Originally designed for frail elderly clients who needed a safe and engaging way to exercise indoors, this technology would also be beneficial for people of all ages who use wheelchairs or have strength or mobility challenges.

A virtual scene appears on the screen when the user begins pedaling, and could be tailored for younger users to display age-appropriate environments, such as a country fair or an African safari. When the user's pedaling speeds up, he or she moves more quickly through the scene for realistic effect.

The display can show the distance traveled, as well as the user's speed. No set up is required. The user simply starts pedaling and a scene is selected at random. (Alternately, users can choose a particular scene themselves.)

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