Saturday, April 21, 2012

Wheeling Energy Study

Last week I took part in a study at ICORD that looks at the effort it takes to wheel. A lot of research goes into finding out ways to decrease pain and fatigue for wheelchair users; the purpose of this particular study is to find out just how much of a change in wheeling effort a wheelchair user can detect. This will help determine meaningful ways that wheeling "demand" can be decreased. The example given to me was, if there is a noticeable and worthwhile change in perceived and actual effort between two types of carpet, then it may help to convince businesses that have a lot of carpet (like hotels) to use that different carpet.

The study involved a lot of wheeling on a treadmill. First the researchers determined how much drag my wheelchair has, by running the treadmill at an incline and hooking my chair (with me in it) to a strain gauge. As I figured, my chair has more drag than usual because it has solid inserts in the tires rather than tubes. So, if I change to tubes it will be easier to wheel but then I would have to worry about flats. For the second part, a winch-type contraption was attached to the back of my chair, with weights added to a rope to add or reduce drag. The weights simulated everything from a chair with tube-type tires to solid tires and five kilograms of luggage. I had to wheel for one minute; halfway through the minute the weight on the rope was changed. I had to rate the change in weight as well as the effort level. I did this 18 times, with a two-minute break in between each test - almost an hour on the treadmill.

The third part of the study was a set of three-minute wheels on the treadmill while my heart rate and oxygen consumption were monitored. A SmartWheel was attached to my chair, and measured things like how much force is used to push, the frequency and the smoothness of each push. I did this test four times, with two different inclines on the treadmill. And finally, I did two 15-meter sprints in a hallway with the SmartWheel attached. As you can imagine, that is a heck of a lot of wheeling - there were a lot of breaks, but it took more than three hours for everything. And I get to go back this week to do it all again! It will be interesting to see the results of the study, they are planning to use a fairly large sample of wheelchair users, and they started not too long ago. I signed up to receive a copy of the results when the study is published, it will be interesting to see what the findings are.

1 comment:

  1. DUDE! Punctures are very RARE, it's worth it, Ya gotta go tube type!
    Get a speedo too. ;-)

    J Androo