A Step-Up for Healthy Exercise

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For some, using an elliptical trainer is a difficult task. Most elliptical machines are built for people of average height, allowing them to easily reach handle-bars and push pedals forward without unnecessary strain. But for a Chicago resident with cerebral palsy and a height of X, trying to reach the handle bars and push the pedals simultaneously was both ineffective and unsafe.  She experienced strain in her legs and had difficulty keeping her feet positioned firmly on the pedals.  She needed a safer means to exercise and thus became a client to the student design and engineering team at Northwestern.

The team created an adaptive device that assists their client in using the machine fluidly and without strain. As you can see from the before and after video footage, this simple adaptive device enables their user to more easily exercise on the machine, giving them step-up in their exercise routine.

{Video: A Step-Up for Healthy Exercise}


The device changes the height and angle of the foot placement, and helps to hold the foot in position.  It consists of inserts, a toe-cap and a strap to attach to existing elliptical pedals as shown in the figure.

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The INSERTS, prototyped out of cherry wood feature a rubber pad to provide a comfortable surface with a slight slope to ensure the user’s stability. Below are the specific dimensions of the prototype.

Surface Length: 10”
Surface Slope: 10 degrees
Side Walls: 0.5” keeping foot in place
Rubber Pad: 5” x 8.25” x .02”thickness

The TOE-CAP is located at the front of the insert with a hollowed surface to prevent the user’s foot from sliding forward.

Cap Height: 4.5”

The STRAP is used to attach the insert to the machine by passing a piece of Velcro through the insert’s clip and around the pedal to ensure stability on the machine.

Velcro width: 2”

This design keeps users upright, holds their feet flat on the pedals, and eliminates excess strain on their legs while they are using the machine. Most importantly, users can now keep the pedals moving forward while still reaching the handlebars comfortably and firmly.

Using this design, users with cerebral palsy and below average height can now get an effective work out with comfort, stability and safety on an elliptical machine.

For more examples of adaptive recreational equipment, please visit RecTech’s expanding wiki database.