Dr. Zatrok's blog
Dr. Zatrok's blog

Dr. Zatrok's blog

Ergometer for home rehabilitation

by Dr. Zsolt Zatrok

The home ergometer is an effective aid for recovery from a serious illness or rehabilitation. Read more about them in this article.

What is an ergometer?

An ergometer is a piece of exercise equipment that allows you to strengthen specific muscle groups in the body by precisely controlling the amount of effort required. Therefore, you can precisely apply the load and monitor the rate of force recovery. An ergometer is an exercise machine that allows you to perform cardio exercises with your arms or legs in a standing, sitting or lying position.

Types of ergometer

Various types of ergometers including leg, arm, sitting, lying ergometers, and treadmills are also part of the category.

Cycle and treadmill ergometers find common use in clinical exercise testing and rehabilitation, and they are also suitable for home rehabilitation.

Reclining ergometers serve as specialized equipment for conducting exercise ultrasound examinations in a hospital setting.

For recovery from more serious illness, small rehabilitation ergometers that can be placed on a table, bed or floor are commonly used. They are most commonly used after stroke, transplantation, prosthesis implantation, and rehabilitation after serious illness when the patient is not yet able to leave the bed or chair. Effective in cardiovascular and respiratory rehabilitation.

Rehabilitation ergometer

ergometer, arm-leg, stroke rehabilitation

Cycle ergometers that can be folded by hand or foot provide an excellent progression to recovery. They can be used to exercise both upper and lower limbs. People in wheelchairs can also roll to the device placed on a table.

Research has shown that using an arm ergometer or leg ergometer is beneficial for recovery after a stroke. They help improve arm and leg strength and cardiovascular health. The resistance of the bicycle is adjusted by the movement therapist according to your current condition. Setting the right resistance ensures that it requires an effort that is appropriate for the patient.

The purpose of using an arm bike is to strengthen the arms and legs so that the stroke patient can better perform tasks such as eating, dressing and walking.

Athletes, such as swimmers or triathletes recovering from injuries, can utilize it, especially in the rehabilitation of injured arms and shoulders.

Active and passive ergometer

There are active and passive ergometers. The physical force of the user always propels an active ergometer, meaning it does not rotate by itself.

For a passive ergometer, an “automatic” operation can be configured. This allows the ergometer to assist in moving the limb, even if it is entirely immobilized or paralyzed, which is necessary if the patient hasn’t yet regained mobility after the stroke.

A severe, weakened patient needs an active/passive ergometer. Initially, the use of the device is very important, as it is almost the only way the patient can use the ergometer.

As the patient gradually regains strength, the work done by the machine should be reduced and the patient’s work increased.

The movement therapist determines the ideal setting, considering the current condition.

Preparing to “roll”

Rehabilitation ergometers typically come with both pedals and hand grips. These are easily interchangeable. You should choose depending on whether you will be working with your feet (pedal) or hands (handle).

The ergometer should always rotate clockwise. Whether you use your hands or your feet.

The position of the seat and the height at which the device is placed can also be used to control which muscle groups are worked harder. For example, your shoulders should be horizontally aligned with the axis of rotation of the machine. If your shoulders are higher up on the axis, you are working different muscles than if they were lower.

Sit far enough away from the pedals so that your elbows (or knees in the case of feet) are not fully extended, but slightly bent (5-10 degrees). If you put the device too far away, you will put unnecessary strain on the joints.

For the first few minutes, work with a lower load and a slower turn. This is the warm-up. The blood circulation in the limb slowly “kicks in” and the muscles warm up. Then increase the load.

Training for the heart and lungs

One of the goals of ergometer training is to improve muscle strength and movement coordination. The other – and equally important – goal is to improve the condition of your cardio-respiratory system.

With the ergometer, you can gradually improve your endurance, slowly building up to the ability to “roll” for 30 minutes or more. You’ll burn hundreds of calories per hour.

You can “adjust” the intensity of your ergometer workout by monitoring your heart rate. The weaker your general condition, the less trained you are, the higher your heart rate will jump. You should not allow yourself to “overwork”.

You should pace the workload and intensity by watching your heart rate rise. During the first workouts, your heart rate will be high even at very low resistance. Slow down the winding speed, reduce the resistance so that the heart rate increase is moderate.

Every condition (stroke, heart attack, heart surgery, heart failure, etc.) has its “load”. Your movement therapist should determine the heart rate you can tolerate. Meet regularly and agree on exercise intensity and target heart rate. Then follow these at home.

When to use an ergometer?


  • Rotator cuff surgery or shoulder bursitis
  • Proximal humerus fracture
  • Broken elbow
  • Teniscal elbow or golf elbow
  • Fracture of the clavicle
  • Shoulder sprain or labrum tear
  • joint stiffness after fracture


  • heart attack
  • cardiomyopathy
  • heart failure
  • stroke
  • pulmonary disease (COPD, pneumonia)
  • after transplantation
  • preparation for prosthetic surgery and post-operative rehabilitation
  • severe physical inactivity

Ergometer in stroke rehabilitation

Stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability in adults. One of the most common consequences of stroke is hemiparesis, which is paralysis of one side of the body. It often leaves the patient unable to walk unaided and dependent on others. They even need help with activities such as eating, bathing and dressing.

Gait, muscle weakness, spasticity, poor motor control and coordination, loss of balance and sensation can be major difficulties for stroke patients.

After a stroke, it is advisable for the patient to undergo specific physiotherapy treatments as soon as possible, initiating the retraining of the body for proper movement, improving blood flow, and preserving muscle strength.

As recovery from a stroke can take months or even years, a home ergometer is an important tool for stroke rehabilitation. It is one of the most beneficial exercise and rehabilitation methods for stroke patients.

Stimulating the muscles in the arms and legs after a stroke can help improve movement and walking ability

Stimulates voluntary movement – Walking requires continuous and repetitive movement, which is difficult or impossible to achieve after a stroke. A cycling trainer forces coordinated and symmetrical movement with both legs, which can lead to improved gait over time.

Patients can use it almost immediately after a stroke, once life-threatening conditions have passed. During the initial period, the patient cannot engage in walking exercises. A cycle trainer can help rebuild damaged muscles and brain pathways.

Patients can use it beyond rehabilitation. Even after daily and weekly therapy sessions are no longer necessary, the bike trainer is a great tool for a healthy lifestyle. After a stroke, it can be difficult for many patients to maintain an active lifestyle, so incorporating time on a bike trainer can help to establish a healthy routine. This daily activity can even help prevent stroke recurrence.

It serves as a highly secure tool in post-stroke recovery. Seated or standing bike trainers eliminate the need for balance, greatly reducing the risk of falling. Most patients can use them without assistance.

Monitor progress – You can track cycling results and observe improvements in the patient’s condition.

It is easy to change the exercise programme. Most ergometers provide adjustment options. They allow the user to tailor the workout to their own needs.

  • Using high resistance and low speed focuses on muscle building.
  • Low resistance and high RPM, on the other hand, provide improved cardio-respiratory endurance. In other words, it improves cardiac, circulatory, pulmonary and respiratory efficiency.

Click here to buy a rehabilitation ergometer.

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