SOURCE: University of Calgary

University of Calgary

April 22, 2015 10:30 ET

New bike helps paralyzed patients cycle again

$35,000 bike in Faculty of Kinesiology available for public use

CALGARY, AB--(Marketwired - April 22, 2015) - It sounds like something from Star Trek: an exercise bike that prompts nerves to fire allowing people with paralyzed legs to cycle. This is not science fiction, it's a functional electrical stimulation (FES) bicycle, which will soon be available for public use in the Thrive Centre, located in the University of Calgary, Faculty of Kinesiology.

According to Dr. Chester Ho, Section Chief of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and Associate Professor with the Cumming School of Medicine, the FES bike provides surface electrical stimulation through the skin stimulating the muscles in a coordinated fashion that simulates a cycling motion. The bike was designed to help people with a variety of conditions such as spinal cord injuries, stroke or multiple sclerosis.

"The exciting thing is that, there has been a lot of research to show that with this exercise regimen, people can actually get a very good cardiovascular workout which they previously may have had more difficulty in achieving." says Dr. Ho.

Four years ago, on February 6, 2011, Amanda Timm suffered a T6 spinal cord injury while skiing in Fernie and lost the use of her legs. While it doesn't seem to have slowed her down too much (she's a member of the National Prospect Team for Alpine Skiing who enjoys surfing and occasionally bungee jumping) her condition presents its own difficulties. "I use the bike to keep muscle tone in my legs," explains Timm. "I've been using one for three years, and I find it extremely useful. You don't have to worry so much about pressure sores. I'm sitting in a sit-ski all day, so I'm not actually using my leg muscles but I still want to keep my leg muscles because it's so important. A lot of people haven't heard of the FES bike, but I think everyone should use it if they're paralyzed."

The FES bike was made available to the public thanks to the combined efforts of the Amanda Project (a group dedicated to the betterment of Spinal Cord Injury Care), Spinal Cord Injury Alberta (formerly Canadian Paraplegic Association), the Faculty of Kinesiology and the Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation as well as a generous grant from the Calgary Health Trust. "Our donors are committed to ensuring that the very best in medical advancements are available to those who need it right here in our city," explains Calgary Health Trust CEO, Jill Olynyk. "Access to the FES bikes will mean that users remain healthier and have less secondary health concerns in the long run. That's a big win for everyone."

The FES bike will be available for public use and is part of a network of FES bikes being developed in Calgary. Users will be required to obtain medical clearance and complete an assessment at a qualified centre to ensure the FES bike is suitable for their condition. Once specific exercise parameters have been established, users can then independently move to any FES bike including the one at the University of Calgary. The other two FES bikes are located in the Foothills Medical Centre and the Spinal Cord Injury Alberta office. Calgary Health Trust is currently actively raising funds to provide Albertans with more FES bikes. For more information visit:

FOR MEDIA: An availability is scheduled from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 22, at the Thrive Centre at the University of Calgary with Dr. Chester Ho and Amanda Timm. See attached map for location.

About the University of Calgary
The University of Calgary is a leading Canadian university located in the nation's most enterprising city. The university has a clear strategic direction to become one of Canada's top five research universities by 2016, where research and innovative teaching go hand in hand, and where we fully engage the communities we both serve and lead. This strategy is called Eyes High, inspired by the university's Gaelic motto, which translates as 'I will lift up my eyes.'

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Contact Information

  • Media Contact
    Donald McSwiney 
    Director of Communications, Faculty of Kinesiology
    University of Calgary