Best fitness exercises for wheelchair users: Upper body workout ideas to get fit

Heather Campbell
 min read

The best fitness exercises for wheelchair users are necessary as maintaining muscle strength and good fitness is essential for people who use wheelchairs.

Best fitness exercises for wheelchair users: Upper body workout ideas to get fitWith enough muscle, you can do more and have more resistance. Being in good shape physically and mentally also simply makes you feel better.

As a general rule, everyone needs to exercise. In a wheelchair, the neck, shoulders and back have a hard time on a daily basis. Training makes these zones stronger, and can reduce pain symptoms. Exercise and sports stimulate the production of endorphins, which gives an instant feeling of well-being.

Read on for some sensible and practical tips, and a list of the best wheelchair exercises to strengthen your body and mind.

Best fitness exercises for wheelchair users: Introduction

How do you find the motivation to start doing fitness exercises in your wheelchair?

It’s not always easy to take that step. Where do you start, and how do you build fitness and muscle?

To motivate yourself, you can think about the benefits derived.

What does better fitness provide if you are a wheelchair user? What is it worth to you to feel stronger?

Athletes and sportsmen often say they feel more comfortable after a workout thanks to the endorphins produced post training.

If you want to achieve that same feeling, sports should become a part of your regular routine.

But then there is the problem of the exercises themselves. What are the best exercises for someone in a wheelchair?

Can you do them when you want to, without the help of others? How long and how often should you do an exercise to have an effect?

Benefits of fitness exercises in a wheelchair

  • Fitness exercises make you stronger mentally and physically, giving you more confidence and energy for daily activities.
  • It improves your agility, mobility, and muscle strength and teaches you to listen to your body better. These are all things that can come in handy in your daily activities.
  • It increases your independence and self-reliance because you can do more things yourself.
  • It is good for your physical fitness and improves blood circulation, posture, and core stability. In a wheelchair, your neck, shoulders, and back have a hard time on a daily basis. Training makes these zones stronger, and it can help reduce pain symptoms.
  • You keep your weight under better control. Movement stimulates digestion which slows down with prolonged sitting still in a wheelchair. This makes you burn more calories, which is ideal in the fight against obesity.
  • Exercise and sports stimulate the production of endorphins in your body. This neurotransmitter acts as a natural drug and makes you feel pleasant and very relaxed. If you are feeling gloomy or stressed, endorphins help improve your mood.
  • It makes for stronger muscles, better fitness, and better health.

Different types of fitness exercises for wheelchair users

Leniency exercises in a wheelchair

You can improve your flexibility, concentration, and breathing with yoga and other similar activities.

Include these types of exercises in your training as well. For example, if you suffer from stiff muscles, engage in a sport that promotes flexibility.

Aerobics and cardio fitness in a wheelchair

These are exercises that increase heart rate and breathing and strengthen the heart.

Sports such as wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby are perfect examples. But other less strenuous activities such as wheelchair dancing are fun too.

Another way to do endurance training is on the athletic track.

For example, wheeling (for longer distances) is an excellent way to improve your heart condition and strengthen your arms.

Strength and resistance exercises in a wheelchair

You can use dumbbells, other free weights, or even various strength training devices for strength training.

With this type of exercise, you strengthen your arms and torso. These are the body parts you use most with a manual wheelchair.

You can also do push-ups by placing your hands on the seat next to your thighs and pushing yourself up.

Another way to exercise your muscles is with resistance bands or fitness rubber bands that you attach to the back of the wheelchair. The harder you pull the elastic, the greater the resistance.

You can also strengthen the upper body with this. For example, you can use it to train your biceps and your torso and shoulders. Various exercises are possible with straight or oblique, twisting movements.

Warm-up and stretching exercises in a wheelchair

Starting with a proper warm-up is vital in any sport and exercise, including in a wheelchair.

Warming up the muscles prevents injuries. Athletes in wheelchairs are especially susceptible to arm injuries, such as tendonitis.

Daily stretching exercises bring muscles and tendons to length, preventing muscle pain.

Include a rest day if your muscles feel tremendously stiff. The body needs time to recover.

Movement tips for people with disabilities or injuries

Sometimes pursuing a healthy lifestyle can be difficult, especially if you are less able-bodied or seriously injured.

Not surprisingly, less than half of Americans with disabilities currently exercise and move frequently.

Still, it’s essential to do this so you can stay healthy. So what kind of exercises can you do? Read on!

Exercise pays off

When you exercise regularly, you reduce your risk of various diseases, including cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and depression.

It pays to exercise, even if you’re in a wheelchair.

Benefits of growing muscle from your wheelchair

  • Muscle mass increases
  • You feel more balanced in the wheelchair
  • Joint pain decreases, which increases life comfort
  • You become more flexible
  • Increased stamina, which is also beneficial for resistance to disease and infection

Muscle and bone-strengthening exercises three times a week

In addition, it is recommended that you do muscle and bone-strengthening exercises, such as a strength training and/or balance exercise, three times a week.

For example, you can exercise your abdominal muscles by tapping the bottom of your tires sideways. Just be careful not to overdo it.

If you are just starting to exercise, it is better to start with 10 minutes and increase the session by 5 minutes each week.

As such, you’ll keep it up more easily and reduce the risk of strain, inflammation, and injury.

Related post: How to lose belly fat in 3 simple steps: Your roadmap to ripped abs

One hour of exercise per day

At least 30 minutes a day of moderate or vigorous exercise is a healthy amount of activity. An hour a day is even better.

This physical activity does not have to be done in one go but can also be scattered throughout the day.

Think of a walk with your wheelchair (a stroll), a bike ride with your adapted bicycle, or walking your dog.

You must choose activities you enjoy because it will be easier to keep them up for longer.

Best fitness exercises for wheelchair users: Conclusion

Before you begin exercising as a wheelchair user, we recommend that you seek expert advice.

If necessary, bring a friend or family member with you to the consultation to help you remember everything and assist you during your first training session.

As you build routine and confidence, you will need less help from others.

In any case, consult a doctor who can give you targeted exercises and advice appropriate to your situation. Your doctor can also tell you what sports might be right for you.

About Heather Campbell

As a nutritionist, my field of specialization is science-based nutritional advice but more importantly, it is my goal to share capturing and inspiring stories, examples and solutions which can help plus-size individuals overcome their specific difficulties. Read More