Fitness is a priority when you use a wheelchair. Getting and staying active brings positive health benefits and can make it easier to deal with day-to-day life tasks.
Aerobic exercise that helps increase your heart rate, along with strengthening exercises for the muscles, are both important. And don’t panic – there is sure to be an activity to suit you, whatever your physical abilities and preferences. You don’t need to play competitive wheelchair basketball or train for a marathon. Simple, manageable activities also count.
Read on for some ideas for effective – and fun – wheelchair fitness ideas.
Tips for Cardiovascular Exercise
Excellent cardiovascular activities include swimming, wheelchair workouts (either a class or an online class), wheelchair sprinting or rowing on machines adapted for wheelchairs, netball and basketball, and active outdoor pursuits like kayaking or rock climbing. If these last suggestions are not easily accessible in your local area, consider tours for people with disabilities that introduce you to these exciting activities.
The aim of effective cardiovascular exercise in a wheelchair is to increase your heart rate and make you sweat (although not to make you uncomfortable). It should also make you a little out of breath but not so much you can’t hold a conversation. Start small with 10 minute exercise sessions and increase to 20 minutes.
Important Muscle Strengthening Tips
Pay attention to the muscle groups that are under pressure when using a wheelchair. Strengthen the chest muscles and shoulder muscles to release tightness and strain. And look at exercises that promote the movement of the back muscles and develop your stamina.
Gyms that have been adapted for people using wheelchairs are ideal for your muscle strengthening sessions. You could also try simple exercises at home with the assistance of resistance bands.
Know the Benefits of Fitness
There are many benefits of physical activity that apply to disabled and able-bodied people. It is beneficial for your physical and mental health, it reduces stress, it helps you maintain a positive attitude, and it is a good way to meet like minded people.
It is more difficult to complete enough cardiovascular activity in a wheelchair because it is harder to raise your heart rate. You may need to add in extra exercise sessions rather than relying on the energy you expend getting around.
How Much Activity?
It is clear that exercise is vital for everyone, not least those with a disability that requires the use of a wheelchair. All adults, not just wheelchair users, should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week, along with two or more days of strength training.
Don’t panic if you are nowhere near these targets. Don’t try and increase your activity levels so quickly you risk burn-out. Increase your exercise gradually, and try to take part in something you enjoy. Don’t let anything stop you from focusing on your fitness. If you feel intimidated, check out inspiring fitness tips from disabled influencers who are encouraging disabled and able-bodied people to rethink how they exercise.