A Combined Computer-Controlled Walking and Exercise System

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A system is described that combines a computer-controlled, powered muscle stimulator and lightweight, flexible braces to allow both exercise and ambulation in spinal-cord-injured individuals. The bracing is an extensively modified version of the Louisiana State University Reciprocating Gait Orthosis. By using beryllium copper, fiberglass and graphite, the system is made flexible and weighs less than three pounds. In combination with a six-channel powered muscle stimulator, practical ambulation is possible. By using flexible bracing, it is possible to exercise in such a system. Two exercise modalities are described, involving weight lifting of the paralyzed muscles and computer-controlled aerobic exercise. Computer-controlled aerobic exercise is programmed for bicycling on either a stationary or non-stationary bicycle ergometer. The implications of this system in rehabilitation engineering and clinical rehabilitation are discussed.

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