How to Stay Fit and Active in a Wheelchair


Physical exercise and muscle strengthening is very important for people who use wheelchairs. Not only is it essential for physical fitness and health, but it can also be hugely beneficial for mental wellbeing. Although it can sometimes be difficult for people in wheelchairs to get started, or to feel motivated to exercise, it is every bit as important for them to stay physically fit and healthy as it is for non-wheelchair users, if not more so. Having muscles that are strong enough to make it possible to use a wheelchair independently, without risk of injury or strain, is also essential.

The Department of Health recommends that all adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week. Aerobic exercises are those that raise your heart rate and cause you to break into a sweat, and they are particularly effective at keeping your heart and lungs in good condition.

If you are new to exercising, you should start with fairly gentle ten-minute sessions and then lead up to slightly more rigorous twenty-minute sessions. Ideally, immediately after a session of aerobic activity, you should have broken into a sweat, and although you can hold a conversation, you will not have enough breath to sing out loud. When it comes to wheelchair exercises and the kinds of physical activities that wheelchairs users can do, there are still plenty of options.

Muscle-strengthening exercises

exercise in your wheelchairWhen using a wheelchair, typically it is the chest and arm muscles that get the most exercise, and developing these so that they are as strong as possible is a good way of avoiding injury in the long run. However, it is important not to neglect other groups of muscles, especially those that play a role in supporting the chest and arm muscles. Back and shoulder muscles are two examples of groups of muscles that merit special attention for wheelchair users. Many gyms are able to provide equipment that has been adapted for wheelchair users, and these are the ideal places to do muscle-strengthening exercises.

Sports and physical activities
Swimming is an excellent cardiovascular activity that helps to strengthen muscles without putting any strain on joints. Another option is to use a rowing machine that has been adapted for wheelchair use. This is particularly good for building upper body strength. For something that will get your heart racing, you could try wheelchair sprinting, at either a track or in a specialised studio. There are also many competitive games and sport groups that you can join; wheelchair basketball is one very popular sport that enjoys a high profile. To find the kinds of sports that best suit your abilities, check out the Parasport Wizard.

Image Courtesy:,