Being confined to a wheelchair means that you may not be able to take part in the same workout routines as able-bodied people. But that certainly doesn’t mean that you should be excluded from living a healthy lifestyle that includes various forms of exercise. It is important to remain active and take part in as many sporting activities as possible.
Benefits of Exercising for Wheelchair Users
The benefits of exercise have been proven time and again, you don’t need us to tell you that staying active is important for all of us. But for people in wheelchairs, this might be even more important due to a potential lack of physical activity.
From boosting your mood to improving your movement and helping you to stay in shape, there are so many advantages to creating an exercise routine for wheelchair users.
Toning the muscles is not just about having a leaner appearance, although that is a big advantage of this. Much more than this, having toned muscles means that your balance and movement will be improved. As well as this, toning the muscles means that your posture will be better, and you will be able to make faster movements.
Bone strength is super important for a lot of reasons but for people who use a wheelchair, the associated balance and coordination improvements are essential. As well as working out regularly, it is important to follow a healthy diet in order to give the bones the calcium and vitamin D that they need to thrive.
Improves Flexibility & Range of Motion
The more you train your body to move in certain ways, the more you will be able to do. Exercises such as yoga will help to make the ligaments and joints more flexible. As a result of this, you will find that your range of motion improves. This is something that can quickly decrease when spending long hours in one position, like when you are sitting in a wheelchair, so it is incredibly important.
The improvements in the bones and muscle tone will contribute to your flexibility and range of motion as well.
Helps to Keep the Weight Off
When you remain inactive for long periods, there is a chance that you will put on weight. While most of us want to keep the weight off for aesthetic reasons, there are also many health-associated reasons for staying in shape.
If a person is overweight, or obese, they risk serious problems including, but not limited to diabetes, heart conditions, stroke, high blood pressure, and osteoarthritis due to unnecessary pressure on the joints.
When you work out, you are not only improving your physical condition but also your mental one. Having a good state of mind is very important, especially considering the prevalence of conditions like depression and anxiety.
During periods of exercise, the brain releases certain chemicals like endorphins which make you feel good. These mood-boosting hormones are responsible for feeling good in various situations, and the more you work out, the more you will notice that your mood lifts.
Boosts Blood Circulation
Poor circulation can cause a lot of issues including fatigue, joint problems, and digestion issues, among others. However, when you spend a lot of time in your wheelchair, this will quickly promote poor circulation. It is recommended that, when you must sit for a long time, you should perform some sort of stretch or action at least every 15 minutes.
But having a regular exercise routine is one of the best ways to improve your circulation and avoid the problems that come with this. It works because, when you are active, the heart pumps blood more quickly around the body, therefore improving the body’s ability to take in and use oxygen.
Tips for Exercising Safely in a Wheelchair
Being in a wheelchair can make exercise dangerous when the proper precautions are not taken, but again, this should not be a reason for you to not take part. It is important to follow some of the following safety tips to make sure that your exercise sessions are as safe as they are enjoyable.
1. Use a Wheelchair Belt to Prevent Falls When Exercising
One of the most simple and yet most effective things you can do is to use a wheelchair belt. This will help to prevent you from falling out of the wheelchair during periods of intense exercise.
2. Start Off Slowly & Perform Warm-Up Exercises
When you first begin your exercise program, you should allow yourself the time to ease into it. Don’t go in all guns blazing, trying to do more than you can handle. It is best to start off gently and work up to a more intense session. It is vital to listen to your body and go at a pace that feels comfortable for you.
It is also very important to remember that exercising without properly warming up and cooling down can be very dangerous. Be sure to include these aspects to allow your muscles and joints to become more flexible and avoid obtaining an injury.
3. Stick to an Exercise Routine
It is also a wise idea to create an exercise routine. Many people think that they will succeed by simply taking the opportunity when they get a moment. However, by incorporating an exercise session into your daily routine, you are much more likely to work out regularly.
4. Choose Something That You Enjoy & Can Comfortably Do
There are a lot of sports and exercises to choose from, but that doesn’t mean that you have to do something you don’t enjoy. Take the time to look at your options and choose a type of exercise that appeals to you. This will also give you the motivation to take part regularly. If you choose something that you hate, you’ll hardly be likely to stick to it.
Moreover, you should consider any limitations related to your physical condition. Not only will these make certain exercises more challenging, but they may also make them unsafe. The type of exercise you choose should also be easily available to you in terms of location and equipment.
5. Exercise With Others to Make it a More Enjoyable Experience
If you find that motivation is a problem, you could ask a friend or family member to join you. Making exercise a social activity can vastly improve your enjoyment of it. If you don’t have any willing friends then you might consider listening to music or watching a movie while you work out.
Best Sports for Wheelchair Users
Just because you rely on a wheelchair to aid your mobility, that does not mean that you cannot take part in sports. There are many clubs around the country that cater to the specific needs of wheelchair athletes, and your choice of sports is incredibly varied.
One of the great things about playing tennis while in your wheelchair is that there are many adaptive devices that allow you to compete with both other wheelchair users and standing players. This makes it a very inclusive sport.
What’s more, there are some excellent sports wheelchairs that are designed specifically for tennis players so if you fall in love with the sport, it might be worth taking a look at some of these options.
Similarly to tennis, wheelchair manufacturers make mobility aids for people who wish to play basketball. Of course, we would suggest checking out the sport first to see if it is for you before investing in a basketball wheelchair.
Basketball rules stay very much the same for wheelchair players who can play against abled bodied players and others in wheelchairs. The only notable difference is that some rules surrounding dribbling are altered slightly for wheelchair players.
Many people believe that you must be able to stand to do yoga but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Yoga is a hugely inclusive activity and there are apps that are now dedicated to sitting positions only.
You will still be able to take many of the physical and mental benefits of the sport away by doing positions such as seated cat/cow, eagle pose, forward bends, and a variety of twists. You might also focus on the breathing exercises related to yoga for greater mental clarity and stress relief.
Hand cycles are a great way to work out and provide you with some amazing cardiovascular workouts as well as building muscle tone and strength. It is important to take a look at your options where hand cycles are concerned as there are many on the market.
You will need to make sure that the hand cycle bike you choose is designed just as much for comfort as it is for speed and agility.
Wheelchair Fitness Aids for Home Workouts
When you are working out at home, you don’t necessarily need an entire gym or sports hall, but it can be helpful to have a variety of fitness aids that complement your workout.
Cando Chair Cycle
The Cando chair cycle is perfect for people who cannot use a traditional stationary exercise bike. It can be used while seated in the wheelchair but is also compatible with chairs, beds, and while sitting on the floor.
This aid is perfect for restoring muscle tone and strength in the lower limbs but will also help to improve balance, making this ideal for older people. You can adjust the resistance to a level that suits you, and the pedal position can be moved so that you can comfortably use the device.
If you need to improve the strength in your shoulder or improve your range of movement in this area then the overhead pulley is an effective way to do so. This device can be fitted to a doorway, and the line length can be altered according to your height.
It features padded handles for a comfortable workout session as well as adjustable resistance so you can work to a level that feels right for you. If you feel able, there is also the option to add weight to further alter the resistance.
One of the great things about the exercise peddler is that it features a digital display so that you can track your workouts.
This device is ideal for anyone looking for a low-impact workout for the arms or the legs. It can be used to tone and strengthen and will also help to boost circulation. Depending on your current strength level, the peddler can be adjusted to different resistance levels.
When you use a resistance band, your muscles are more intensely worked out, which is great for those who are recovering from an injury. These bands feature a color-coded system, and you will work your way through the colors as your strength builds.
If you are following a muscle strengthening program, the exercise bar is an ideal complement to this. It can be used for those recovering from an injury as well as for anyone looking to create a daily exercise routine.
The exercise bar can be used to work almost every muscle group making it one of the most versatile wheelchair workout aids out there.
When working out the upper body, using a dumbbell is an excellent way to improve strength and tone the muscles. These dumbbells come in a range of weights allowing you to work through them as you gain strength.
Coated in neoprene, the dumbbells are superbly comfortable to use, and there is a lower risk of them slipping out of your hands.
Ankle and Wrist Weights
When working out the muscles in the arms or legs, the addition of an ankle or wrist weight will provide a little more of a challenge, boosting your workout. They can be used for physical therapy as well as for your day-to-day workout routine, so are very versatile.
Invictus Active Trainer
The Invictus Active Trainer is designed to work in the same way as a treadmill but for wheelchair users. It provides a great way of getting a cardio workout, wherever you are.
Whether you are working out indoors or outdoors, this diverse piece of equipment will aid you in a variety of workouts. It is designed to help improve your balance and strength and comes with clamp-on weights, which will improve the intensity of your workout.
The Invictus active trainer can be used for many things, including training for your favorite sports, building muscle strength, and improving your technique.