Top 3 effective wheelchair workouts

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on January 25, 2018 # Health, Exercise

From our friends at Vive Health:

Exercise is essential to keep you physically and emotionally healthy. Regular exercise will help you maintain a healthy heart and lungs, while preventing your muscles and joints from becoming stiff and more prone to injury. It has also been shown that exercise can reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and other diseases.

For people living mobility issues, regular exercise can help prevent blood clots and pressure sores that can occur. Studies have shown that exercise oxygenates the brain helping it to stay healthy and helping you be more alert and able to focus. Another more obvious benefit of exercising is weight control. Many people with mobility issues find it difficult to maintain a healthy weight, whether it’s keep weight on or losing excess pounds, and regular exercise can help make this possible. It will also improve your flexibility and range of motion.

Your exercise routine doesn’t have to be strenuous for you to achieve results. Creating a workout schedule that works for your current ability level will still allow you to gain significant health benefits. There are three different types of exercise shown below that can be used by all ability levels, and will get you started on the road to a healthier you.


When most people think of yoga, they picture people bending themselves into different pretzel-like shapes that may be impossible for you to imagine doing yourself. Well, there is yoga that you are able to do even from a seated position. The deep breathing component of yoga can help increase your lung capacity allowing for better endurance, and mindful meditation can help decrease stress and provide a more restful sleep.

You can also see an increase in flexibility and balance which is crucial if you are in a wheelchair. Improved stability will help you to have more control in your chair and decrease the chances of a fall. Look for free instructional chair yoga videos online, or check with a local yoga studio or gym to see if they offer chair yoga classes you can attend. Always be aware of your limitations and don’t push yourself too far. Yoga should be done to the point of feeling tension in your muscles, but not to the point of pain.

Resistance Training

Considered one of the best workouts for individuals in a wheelchair, resistance training plays an important role in maintaining muscle tone. More muscle helps to keep your weight under control, reduces the risk of injuries for manual chair users, and boosts your overall strength. The best way for you to get a resistance workout is with a resistance band set. Resistance bands can be attached to a door, the arms or even the footrests of your chair.

Resistance band sets usually come with different levels of resistance which will allow you to start at a beginner level and work up to whatever level you feel comfortable. This also allows for muscle building or just muscle toning depending on your desired result. With a resistance band workout, you are able to exercise most of the muscles in your upper body and even help strengthen your core muscle group. This is considered one of the best workouts for individuals in a wheelchair.


You may worry that being in a wheelchair means that you can’t achieve a cardio workout that will help burn calories. That is just not true. There are cardio workout videos online that will help guide you through a cardio workout tailored for different mobility levels. Getting your heart rate up is essential for a healthier heart and improved blood flow to your body.

Many of the cardio exercises that are popular today can be customized to fit your needs. Boxing and Zumba have both become popular ways for people in wheelchairs to get their cardio workout. Both of these workouts are excellent calorie burners if you can keep up a good pace. If that sounds like too much for you, there are arm bikes that you can use for a calorie burning workout. There are portable table models available to use at home, or you can check with a local rehab facility near you to see if they have any. If you can push your own manual wheelchair, don’t forget that you can always get outside in the fresh air and get a workout simply pushing your chair through the neighborhood.

Remember that any physical activity is going to be beneficial to your overall well-being. Always check with your doctor before beginning any new workout routine. Take a look online and see what workouts interest you and discuss them with your doctor. No matter what your limitations are, there is something that you can be doing to increase your physical movement.

Learn more by visiting Vive Health and our stay active page

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.