Regular exercise through strength training, resistance training, and aerobics, is vital for staying fit. For wheelchair users, making exercise a part of your daily routine is necessary for maintaining a healthy weight and strong, flexible upper body muscles.
In addition to keeping your muscles in shape, engaging in regular exercise can strengthen your heart and lungs, improve your mood, help you sleep, increase your energy, and reduce stress and depression.
How to Begin
Try to set aside 30-45 minutes at least 4 or 5 days a week for aerobic and strength-building exercises. You’ll find that exercise is easy to integrate into your lifestyle if you do it with a friend, while you’re watching TV, waiting in line, or sitting at your desk.
Always begin workouts by stretching your arms, shoulders, and back. This will reduce your chances of injury—wheelchair users are especially susceptible to tendonitis in the arms. Propelling yourself backward is an effective way to keep your shoulders and back limber.
When you’re ready to begin strength and resistance training, you can work your biceps, triceps, deltoids, and pectoral muscles with dumbbells or resistance bands.
If you’re away from home or don’t have access to these tools, you can strengthen your muscles and raise your heart rate by doing sitting pushups. Grasp your chair’s armrests, and slowly elevate your body from the seat, hold for several seconds, and then slowly lower yourself again. Do multiple sets of 5-10 repetitions, depending on your experience.
Don’t Overdo It
If you have just begun exercising, make sure you use lightweight dumbbells and lower resistance bands. Overworking inexperienced muscles can lead to strain, soreness, or injury.
Remember to always talk with your doctor before starting a new exercise plan, particularly if you have diabetes, arthritis, high or low blood pressure, or a history of heart problems. Exercise can be difficult, but you should never feel sharp or otherwise intense pain in your muscles or chest—stop if you do, and talk with your doctor.