Seated Low Impact Exercise Is Helping Our Veterans And Their Families One Step At A Time

By Jake Rosenberg

Chronic joint and back pain is a significant problem worldwide.  It is especially prevalent among patients receiving care in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (or VA) healthcare system. Back pain challenges adults of all ages, and is associated with disability, lost workplace productivity, functional limitations, and even social isolation. Exercise is the best way to combat chronic joint and back pain. Ironically, there are very few programs – or clinical trials – that utilize low impact seated activities to combat this form of chronic pain.  Typically, doctors take the pharmaceutical approach, combining it with physical therapy.  However, when physical therapists add low impact, seated exercise to their repertoire, the results can be life changing.

Studies have shown that “nearly 1 in 4 Americans have osteoarthritis, it affects more than 1 in 3 who have served in the military. Those over 40, and in the military or who have served in the military, are twice as likely to develop arthritis after returning to civilian life, and OA rates in active-duty personnel younger than 20 are 26 percent higher than those of their nonmilitary peers.” 

Did you know that approximately half of all veterans suffering from arthritis report that they have specific limitations on their daily activities because of this debilitating disease?  “OA is a leading cause of activity limitations among veterans and a major barrier to managing other common health conditions they may have, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Joint injuries, which can happen in multiple ways, are a risk factor for OA,” says Kelli Allen, PhD, researcher in UNC’s Thurston Arthritis Research Center and the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center. 

Integrative care practitioners understand the immense value low impact walking affords us.  Today, there are more options than ever before to achieve your goals, while reducing the pressure on bones and joints.  Seated exercise, for example, is an excellent modality.  Products like the patented miniTREAD®, a seated “treadmill-like” device designed specifically for low impact cardiovascular exercise empowers those with joint and back issues to achieve the same benefits as they would from typical standing treadmill use.   Designed with the needs of the mobility-challenged in mind, this portable workhorse fits under any desk or table.  The miniTREAD is rated for use by anyone over the age of 16 and offers the easiest setup available on the market today.  There’s no need for an installer or appointments. Simply remove the miniTREAD from the box, plug in one wire and a power cord and start your journey to optimal health.  You can sit anywhere while using the miniTREAD and the portable handheld controller is simple to use. It even has braille markings for those with sight-based challenges.

Since you never know when an injury will happen or an old injury will rear its ugly head, it’s important to speak with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.  It’s also important to understand that major injuries like a torn ACL can increase the risk of OA in the knee joint. Smaller injuries or excessive joint loading over time can also increase risk of OA in our joints. Because these are common military-related injuries, it’s important to protect against them – as well as rehabilitate from them.   “The first recommendation is always that patients try to lose weight and increase activity to help prevent arthritis from getting worse,” Dr. Allen says. “We are trying to figure out ways to support people in their efforts to adopt healthier lifestyles.”

The miniTREAD has no straps or supports for the feet, unlike other seated exercise machines.  As such, it enables you to walk with your natural stride while seated.  This is especially beneficial, and you have almost no risk of falling.  Your feet move easily and freely, without the need to adjust your gait or your posture.  This reduces the weight-based impact on your joints and bones.  As you become a more experienced “treader”, you can even do sprints and adjust your speed.  The miniTREAD’s controller comes programmed with 12 different speed options.  Need to change rooms or want to walk in front of a different view?  The under 24- pound miniTREAD is easy to move and take anywhere.  It also comes with a full one-year manufacturer’s warranty.     When you’re ready to get treading, you can find the miniTREAD on Amazon or by visiting