Volume 44 Number 4 2007
Pages 561 — 572

Abstract - Assessing mobility characteristics and activity levels of manual wheelchair users

Michelle L. Tolerico, MS;1-2 Dan Ding, PhD;1-2 Rory A. Cooper, PhD;1-4* Donald M. Spaeth, PhD, RET;1-2 Shirley G. Fitzgerald, PhD;1-2 Rosemarie Cooper, MPT, ATP;1-2 Annmarie Kelleher, MS, OTR/L, ATP;1-2 Michael L. Boninger, MD1-4

1Department of Rehabilitation Sciences and Technology, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA; 2Human Engineering Research Laboratories, Department of Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System, Pittsburgh, PA; 3Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, School of Medicine, and 4Department of Bioengineering, School of Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA

Abstract — Although engaging in an active lifestyle is beneficial for maintaining quality of life, a majority of wheelchair users are inactive. This study investigated the mobility characteristics and activity levels of manual wheelchair users in the residential setting and at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG). Demographic factors that may have influenced activity in the home environment were also identified. Fifty-two manual wheelchair users completed a brief survey, and their activity was monitored with a custom data logger over a period of 13 or 20 days. We found that they traveled a mean +/- standard deviation of 2,457.0 +/- 1,195.7 m/d at a speed of 0.79 +/- 0.19 m/s for 8.3 +/- 3.3 h/d while using their primary wheelchair in the home environment. No significant differences in mobility characteristics or activity levels were found for level of spinal cord injury or disability. We also found that subjects traveled significantly farther and faster and were active for more hours during an average day at the NVWG than in the home environment (p < 0.001). We found that manual wheelchair users who were employed covered more distance, accumulated more minutes, and traveled a greater average maximum distance between consecutive stops than those who were unemployed. Results from this study provide a better understanding of the activity levels achieved by manual wheelchair users and insight into factors that may influence this activity.

Key words: activity levels, activity monitor, data logger, manual wheelchair, mobility, mobility characteristics, National Veterans Wheelchair Games, physical activity, rehabilitation, wheelchair users.

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