Exercises for the wheelchair bound

Written by erica roth
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Exercise is beneficial to everyone, whether you are a world-class athlete or someone who suffers from chronic health problems. Exercise gives you energy, can stave off conditions such as osteoporosis, and promotes heart health. People who are wheelchair-bound may need to adjust their workout plan to accommodate their specific situation, but can do some of the same exercises as typical, able-bodied people do. Discuss your workout plans with your doctor before starting a new exercise program to be sure the types of stretches you do are appropriate to your health.

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Band Exercises

Resistance bands are elasticized tubes that can help you exercise to maintain muscle tone and joint flexibility when you are forced to use a wheelchair on a daily basis. The bands are available in several resistances; the harder the band is to stretch, the more of a workout you'll get. Ask your doctor or physical therapist which level of band is appropriate for your use.

Attach the band to a table, another piece of stable furniture or the arm of your wheelchair to perform upper body exercises. Pull the band toward you with one hand, repeating the motion several times — usually 10 times is considered to be a "set" of exercises — to complete a set before switching hands. You can also work your arm muscles by pulling the band from side to side.

Hook the band around the bottom of your foot and hold both ends of the band, one in each hand. Use the resistance band to flex your foot. This exercise stretches your calf muscles. If do not have lower limb function, speak to your medical care provider to determine alternate stretches that can keep your leg muscles from atrophy.

Weight Training

Weight training exercises build up your muscles, which is not only beneficial to your overall health, but will also make your everyday routine easier. Propelling your wheelchair and lifting are both made easier when your upper body strength is maintained, according to Disabled World. Bicep curls are one type of weight training activity you can perform while sitting in your wheelchair or another sturdy chair with a back. Use a 1.5 kg hand weight to start and work your way up to 2.5 kg, if possible.

Grasp the weight in your hand and position your arm so that your palm faces the side of your body. From the neutral position of your hands at your sides, lift the weight slowly while you bend your elbow. Your arm should now be bent as far as you can go. Hold the position for a couple of seconds and steadily bring your arm back down to your sides. Exhale as you lift the weight and breathe in as you lower it. Complete three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions daily; you can spread the sets out throughout the day instead of completing them all at once.


People who are confined to a manual wheelchair and are able to use their arms can get some exercise simply by propelling themselves around to take a "walk" or playing an adapted sport, such as wheelchair basketball. The American Council on Exercise points out that using your upper body strength to wheel your chair for at least 30 minutes qualifies as moderate physical activity. Wheelchair basketball is another good form of exercise; 20 minutes or more is a significant workout.

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