Seated Exercises for Those Who Are Wheelchair Bound

Updated on October 15, 2019

Did you know that in the U.S. alone, 3.6 million people over the age of 15 use a wheelchair?

This doesn’t include the other people in the world requiring one, which WHO estimated to be 1% of the global population. If the estimate is still true today, that equates to over 77 million people.

The causes are different – paralysis, mobility issues, old age, and such. In some of these cases, being wheelchair-bound isn’t a good enough reason to ignore your fitness.

Some seated chair exercises can help one remain active even when stuck in a wheelchair. If you want to get fit or remain fit, read on for some exercises you can do while in a wheelchair.

1. Shoulder Openers

This exercise is for stretching the shoulder muscles as well as the chest. It releases tension in these areas and provides relief to pain.

First, you’ll need a broomstick, a dowel, or anything you can grip with both your hands. You’re going to hold it in front of you, around 6 inches wider than your shoulders.

Next, raise both your arms – while keeping it straight – above your head. Then, continue to bring it behind your head with your arms still straight until you feel a stretch.

At that moment, hold your position for about 5 seconds, then return to the starting position. Do this nine more times, completing 10 reps. You can do this exercise once a day.

2. Bicep Curls

Want to develop your arms using seated chair exercises? That’s possible, too, because all you’ll need is a hand weight to perform this exercise. It also helps you build your strength in your arms.

This is important when you have a manual wheelchair, although you might want to look at an electric wheelchair for sale for improved mobility.

To do this, grab a hand weight with one hand. You can use dumbbells or anything you have – even a slightly heavy can of soup will work.

The weight depends on what’s comfortable for you at the moment, but it should provide a little resistance still. Beginners can start with 3 to 5 pounds.

Then, put your hand on your side with your elbow on the side of your torso and your palm facing outward. You’re going to lift the weight toward your shoulder slowly.

Hold it there for 5 seconds before getting it back to the starting position – again, slowly. Repeat this 14 more times, completing 15 reps.

When you’re done with one arm, do 15 reps for the other arm, as well. Do this every day and once you’re getting comfortable with the weight, increase it to keep challenging your biceps.

3. Overhead Press

This one increases your upper body strength, but it’s a little more challenging than the previous two. It’s fine to do it seated; it may even be better that way, as this study says doing it seated can have better results.

To start, get two weights and hold them in each hand. Bring them next to your shoulders with your elbows bent, palm facing forward. This is your starting position.

Then, slowly lift the weights toward the ceiling until your arms are in a locked position. Your lower back and ab muscles are going to be crucial here for maintaining your balance. 

Hold this position for about 2 seconds, and bring them down to the starting position slowly. Do 15 reps of this exercise.

4. Knee Raises

If you can still move your legs and knees, do this exercise to engage your core. It also strengthens the hamstrings and the quadriceps lower body muscles. That makes it one of the best wheelchair exercises for elderly people.

First, sit up straight and put your feet flat on the floor or footplate. Lift your leg as high as you can while bending your knee toward you.

Once you reach the highest comfortable position, lower your leg to the starting position and repeat this for the other leg. It will look like you’re marching on your wheelchair.

If you’re able and you want to make it more challenging, pause while your leg is at the highest comfortable position. Hold that pose for around 5 to 10 seconds before bringing it back down.

Do 10 reps for each leg.

5. Toe Extensions

Even though you’re not going to use them much in your wheelchair, it’s still best not to let your feet muscles deteriorate. They still have a job of supporting you throughout the day.

It’s quite easy to keep them engaged and healthy, though. Start with toe extensions, which don’t require any equipment. You might want to put on some music, however.

Lay your feet flat on the floor or your footplate. Then, move your toes upward so that it points to the ceiling. Then, lower them to the floor or point it toward the floor. 

You should feel a pull at the back of your foot. Do this 10 times for each foot.

You can do this on both feet at once, or you can do one first and then the other one after completing 10 reps. 

6. Chair Running

Looking for more seated exercises for seniors? Try chair running – it makes for a good cardio session.

You don’t need special tools for this either, but people with advanced mobility issues may find it hard. You can still try to go through the motions, though. It’s excellent at working your arms, legs, and abs while providing a good cardio workout.

First, get into the starting position. Lift your legs straight toward you with your toes pointed. Bring your arms to the side.

Now, imagine you’re running. So, you’ll have to bend one knee toward your chest while bringing the opposite arm toward the knee. Then, get them back to the starting position and do the same to the other knee and arm.

Your movements should be quick yet stable. Do 25 to 30 reps.

Learn More Seated Chair Exercises

Don’t let a wheelchair stop you from getting on a fitness routine. Seated chair exercises help you maintain your strength and mobility while bound to a wheelchair. 

If you want to learn more, don’t hesitate to check out our other articles. Discover new tips and guides today!

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