​Wheelchair fitness resources

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on March 30, 2018 # Exercise

Contributed from our friends at Vive Health:

Stuck in a workout rut or simply at a loss for where to even find effective wheelchair exercises? Don’t fret! Check out these robust tips on wheelchair fitness including fun video tutorials and community resources near you:

Free, Online Tutorials

When it comes to finding helpful, effective workout ideas and tips from real wheelchair users like you, sites like Youtube have you covered. Don’t miss this selection of inspiring videos that cover a range of workout styles and fitness needs:


Throw it back to the 80s with this seated aerobic workout led by Lisa Ericson, the professional ice skater turned expert of seated fitness training who created the SMART (Seated Movement Aerobic and Resistive Training) fitness system after she herself became disabled.

Core Workout

“Wheelchairgirl2018 R” is a YouTube vlogger who is paralyzed from her T12 vertebrae down. She is super real with her audience and shares funny stories as well as fitness and workout tips like these easy core exercises using resistance bands and dumbbells.

Weight Training and Medicine Ball Work

Spinal cord injury survivor Mary Ann Amon shares her workout tips on Youtube, celebrating her 40 lb weight loss journey and inspiring other wheelchair users to never give up on their exercise dreams. Check out her fun workout video that shows you different exercises to do with medicine balls (and basketballs) as well as weight training tips (workout begins around 1:25).

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)

With HIIT, you perform fast, intense spurts of exercise with rest periods in between. With this “No Equipment Beginner HIIT Workout for Wheelchair Users,” Ben Clarke for Adapt to Perform shows you 4 exercises you do for 30 seconds each with 30 seconds of rest after each (4 repetitions for a total of 16 minutes of workout).

Going to the Gym

Curious how exactly to use adaptive gym equipment? If your nerves are keeping you from trying it out at your own gym, don’t miss this helpful video by Youtuber “Girls on Wheels” who shows you how to use various weight lifting and cardio machines in her video “Gym Workout for Paraplegic Wheelchair Users”.

Improve your physical and emotional wellness through mindfulness-cultivating practices like yoga, a proven stress-reliever. Check out this calming wheelchair yoga tutorial from an Adaptive Yoga for Veterans series on Youtube - it even shows you how to utilize basic objects as yoga props during your practice.

Wheelchair Fitness Resources
Did you know there is adaptive equipment for all kinds of sports and activities including horseback riding, kayaking, snow skiing, sailing, canoeing, and biking? The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) has participating “Healthy Inclusive Communities” around the nation that offer wheelchair-friendly fitness centers, exercise programs, and even an equipment lending library.

Visit a fitness center to take part in a class, work out, or borrow what you need for your physical activity and return it free of charge. You can find one near you with their helpful online search tool.

Another great online resource for wheelchair users looking to exercise is the Inclusive Fitness Coalition. Download their free PDF guide to wheelchair fitness called “Discoverable Accessible Fitness.”

Important Wheelchair Fitness Reminders

When it comes to working out and staying fit, there are a handful of important reminders you want to keep in mind:

  • Talk to your doctor before you start any new fitness regimen.
  • Find an adaptive gym near you (with a wheelchair accessible entrance) or call your nearest gym and ask what type of equipment they have that is adaptive to wheelchair users.
  • Use assistive tools like a leg lifter with foot grip to help you assume the right position for the various workouts you perform.
  • Bring a friend, caregiver, or other workout buddy with you if you want a little help or need that social buffer.
  • Warm-up prior to your workout to help loosen your joints and literally warm up your muscles for exercise.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking ample amounts of water before, during, and after your workouts.
  • Ask for help, especially when using weight training and other gym equipment that could be hazardous to your safety.
  • Make sure your wheelchair is properly maintained and ready for gym use.
  • Focus some gym work on your back muscles to offset the imbalance your stronger chest and shoulder muscles create from manually propelling your wheelchair.

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.