You’ve always lived an active lifestyle. Now that you use a wheelchair, you worry that you won’t be able to stay fit and healthy.
Fortunately, you can still enjoy most of the activities you enjoyed before. Here are a few ideas for exercising in a wheelchair.
Yoga and Tai Chi
Even if you can’t move your lower body much, you’ll still gain strength and flexibility by participating in yoga and tai chi as much as you are able.
Go to yoga and tai chi classes, even if you can’t complete every move like the instructor does. Simply follow along with your upper body, performing each stretch as much as you can.
You can also find online classes developed specifically for people in wheelchairs.
Just because you’re in a wheelchair doesn’t mean you can’t still participate in competitive sports. In fact, wheelchair basketball is incredibly popular, with teams and competitions throughout the world.
Wheelchair basketball is similar to typical basketball—the hoop even stays at the same height. Most basketball rules are similar, but there are a few modifications. Rules include:
- Players cannot raise their wheelchairs higher than 21 inches.
- Rules of contact from typical basketball apply and extend to touching someone’s wheelchair.
- Traveling occurs when a player with the ball touches his or her wheels more than twice.
With wheelchair basketball, you exercise your arms, torso, and upper body. You also exercise your heart as you move quickly around the court.
Yes, you can even play golf in a wheelchair. The United States Golf Association has rules and guidelines for players in wheelchairs. These players can hit the ball from their wheelchairs and can use an aide for assistance.
Equipment has even been developed to assist golfers in wheelchairs. These types of equipment include adaptive clubs and special wheelchairs that can place players in a standing position.
Like wheelchair basketball, wheelchair tennis is a popular sport and a competitive event at the Paralympic Games. One difference you’ll notice in the rules is that the ball can bounce twice. Competitive players also use special wheelchairs designed to be light, quick, and maneuverable.
While you might not be able to do crunches and push-ups, you can still work your abdominals from a seated position on your wheelchair. Here are some ideas:
- Stomach Pumps. Sit up straight and pulse your abdominal muscles quickly for 30 seconds.
- Seated Crunch. Sit up straight with your arms crossed. Engage your abs by pulling your belly button toward your spine. Curl your shoulders toward your legs as you press your lower back against your wheelchair’s back.
- Seated Twist. With a straight back, twist your body to the right. Help your body go a bit further by putting your left hand on the armrest and your right hand on the wheelchair’s back. Now switch sides.
Working your abs can improve your posture and help you prevent back pain.
Fortunately, you can still keep your arms toned. Sit up straight as you do each exercise and repeat it several times. Hold a weight in each hand and try the following:
- Arm Curls. Bring your arms straight outward. Now, curl them toward you slowly. Then, slowly extend your arms again.
- Overhead Press. Bend your arms at 90 degrees and hold each weight near your ear. Raise the weights and bring them back down.
- Triceps Extension. Start with your arms at your sides. Move your arms up toward your ears. Then, bend your elbows to bring the weights behind your head. Straighten your arms and bring them back in front of you.
Talk to a physical therapist about other weight exercises you can safely perform in a wheelchair.
If you’d rather not use heavy weights, you’ll get some of the same benefits from resistance bands. You can even use your wheelchair for the following exercises:
- Shoulder Press. Loop the band under the wheelchair wheels and take one end in each hand. Bring your hands to your ears. Now, press the bands above your head, then lower them.
- Chest Press. Place the band around the back of your wheelchair and hold onto the handles with your hands at your chest. Press the band forward as you straighten your arms (without locking them). Now, bring the handles back to your chest.
- Chest Pull. With one end of the band in each hand, bring your hands toward your chest. Now, pull your arms apart, stretching the band. Straighten your arms and bring the band toward your chest.
You may need assistance from a family member or physical therapist as you complete these exercises.
You can still stay fit even when you’re wheelchair-bound. You can participate in a variety of different sports and activities to tone your muscles, increase your flexibility, and improve your heart health.
Don’t let life in a wheelchair keep you from being active. Try some of these exercise ideas and enjoy a healthy lifestyle.