Clinical Rehabilitation published a research review on whether different types of exercise training programs are effective in improving wheelchair propulsion capacity. Studies were divided into four training types: interval, endurance, strength, and mixed training. The results indicated the following:
1. Twenty one studies were included representing 249 individuals with spinal-cord injury (50%), various diagnoses like spina bifida (4%), cerebral palsy (2%), traumatic injury, (3%) and able-bodied participants (38%).
2. All interval training studies found a significant improvement of 18-64% in wheelchair propulsion capacity.
3. Three out of five endurance training studies reported significant effectiveness.
4. Overall, methodological quality was generally poor and there were only two randomised controlled trials.
The researchers concluded that exercise training programs seem to be effective in improving wheelchair propulsion capacity. Although there was remarkably little research, particularly for individuals who do not have spinal-cord injury.
Reference: Zwinkels M et al. Exercise training programs to improve hand rim wheelchair propulsion capacity: a systematic review. Clin Rehabil. 2014 Mar 10. [Epub ahead of print]