The GOOD NEWS is that there are ways to keep yourself fit and active.
Exercise is not just for people with full mobility. In fact, if you have limited mobility, it’s even more important to experience the mood-boosting effects of exercise. Get creative and you can find many enjoyable ways to exercise.
What types of exercises?
Any type of exercise will offer health benefits. No matter your physical situation, you should aim to incorporate three different types of exercise into your routines:
1. Cardiovascular exercises that raise your heart rate and increase your endurance. These might include walking, cycling, dancing, swimming, water aerobics, or “aquajogging”. Exercising in water can be great because your body is supported and it reduces the risk of muscle or joint pain.
2. Strength exercises involve using weights or other resistance to build muscle and bone mass. If you have limited mobility in your legs, your focus will be on upper body strength training. Similarly, if you have a shoulder injury, for example, your focus will be more on strength training your legs and abs.
3. Flexibility exercises improve your range of motion, prevent injury, and reduce pain and stiffness.
How to exercise in a chair or wheelchair
Chair-based exercises are ideal for people with lower body injuries or disabilities. Cardiovascular and flexibility chair exercises can help improve your posture and reduce back pain, while any chair exercise can help alleviate body sores caused by sitting in the same position for long periods. They’re also a great way to squeeze in a workout while you’re watching TV.
- If possible, choose a chair that allows you to keep your knees at 90 degrees when seated. If you’re in a wheelchair, securely apply the brakes.
- Sit up tall while exercising and use your abs to maintain good posture.
- If you suffer from high blood pressure, check your blood pressure before exercising and avoid chair exercises that involve heavy weights.
- Test your blood sugar before and after exercise if you take diabetes medication that can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
Cardiovascular exercise in a chair or wheelchair
Chair aerobics, a series of seated repetitive movements, will raise your heart rate and help you burn calories, as will many strength training exercises when performed at a fast pace with a high number of repetitions. In fact any rapid, repetitive movements offer aerobic benefits and can also help to loosen up stiff joints.
- Wrap a lightweight resistance band under your chair and perform rapid resistance exercises, such as chest presses, for a count of one second up and two seconds down.
- Simple air-punching, with or without hand weights, is an easy cardio exercise from a seated position.
- Check local pools and health clubs to see if they offer pool-therapy programs with access for wheelchair users.
- Some facilities offer wheelchair-training machines that make arm-bicycling and rowing possible. For a similar exercise at home, some portable pedal machines can be used with the hands when secured to a table in front of you.
Strength training exercise in a chair or wheelchair
Many traditional upper body exercises can be done from a seated position using dumbbells, resistant bands, or anything that is weighted and fits in your hand, like soup cans.
- Perform exercises such as shoulder presses and bicep curls. Add extra weight and more exercises as your strength improves.
- Resistance bands can be attached to furniture, a doorknob, or your chair. Use these for pull-downs, shoulder rotations, and arm and leg-extensions.