If you’ve been using a manual wheelchair for years or have just started finding your bearings with one, it may seem like a struggle to keep up a healthy lifestyle. However, the confines of your chair shouldn’t stop you from pursuing physical activity and exercise. In fact, there are many ways that you (and others just like you) can use your wheelchair to be active and have fun too!
Let’s take a look at some of the best benefits of exercise and ways to enjoy them with the help of your wheelchair.
The Benefits of Exercise
Exercise is just as important for a wheelchair user as it is for any other person. Although you might think that it’s best used to manage weight loss, there are many more benefits of exercise for the body and mind that can be especially positive for wheelchair users!
- It’s a known mood booster and can even help you manage stress, anxiety, and depression.
- It helps you sleep better. Just 150 minutes per week can improve your sleep up to 65%!
- It can help you reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases, from diabetes to heart disease and more.
- Exercise is also known to help treat and manage pain by increasing your pain tolerance and lowering your pain perception.
Different Wheelchair Exercises
Now that we know how good exercise can be for you, it’s time to determine exactly which exercises work for your abilities and strengths.
Upper Body Exercises
There’s no reason a lack of equipment should stop you from exercising your upper body. In fact, some of the simplest exercises can be the most effective.
- For example, try simply lifting your arms out straight in front of you. Hold them in place for a few seconds and then lower them. Next, do the same but extend your arms out to your sides at shoulder level. Hold for a few seconds and then lower them. Something as simple as this can help you build up your upper body strength as a beginner.
- Give your shoulders and chest a good stretch by holding a broomstick in your hands, 6 inches past your shoulders. Slowly raise the broomstick above your head with straight arms and continue the movement behind your head until you feel the stretch. Hold the position for a few seconds before reversing the movement and starting all over again.
- Strengthen your core by doing a side twist. This simple exercise involves twisting your body slowly to one side of the chair, clasping your hands on the arm rest together. Ensure your head is also turned in the same direction as your body and hold the position for a few seconds.
- There are plenty of videos available with full workouts to help you strengthen your upper body in a format that you’ll enjoy most!
Lower Body Exercises
Although you may not be able to use your lower body to walk, you can still keep your legs flexible and healthy with a few simple exercises.
- Give your hip stability and posture a boost with knee lifts. Engage your core to help you lift one thigh off the seat of your chair at a time. Try to lift it as much as you can, but don’t let your back round to compensate for the movement. Hold up your leg for a few seconds before putting it down and doing the same with your alternate leg.
- Remember the simple arm stretch mentioned above? Let’s do the same with your legs.
Sit up straight as you extend your straight leg out in front of you, without letting your back round. Do your best to engage your quads for a few seconds when you’ve reached the top of the stretch. Lower your leg and try it again with your other leg.
- A heel lift might seem like an insignificant exercise, but it can work wonders for your calf muscles. It’s as easy as pushing the balls of your feet down while you raise your heels. There’s no need to hold it in this position, but repeat the exercise a few times for maximum benefit.
Not one for exercising on your own? No problem! Engaging in wheelchair sports is a great way to stay active, have fun, and make friends! In fact, some of the best physical activities and sports have been adapted for wheelchair users.
- Wheelchair basketball is one of the most common and intense options you might consider. Of course, the rules are a bit different than the game you likely already know and love, but the premise is largely the same.
- If you’d rather be a solo athlete, consider wheelchair tennis for your next sport. The game is played almost the same way as it might be for able-bodied tennis players except for the rule that the ball is permitted to bounce not once but twice before being sent back over the net.
- Of course, we couldn’t call ourselves a Canadian company without mentioning a winter wheelchair sport or two. If you like a more fast-paced and highly physical sport, para ice hockey might be your game. If you’d rather watch than play a sport as intense as para ice hockey, wheelchair curling might be more your speed.
Some wheelchair sports are definitely more physically demanding than others, but they all offer similar benefits for exercise and health. Remember that no matter which sport you choose to play, the most important part is to have fun doing it!
It’s pretty clear that whether or not you’re using a mobility aid, exercise is a vital piece of maintaining a healthy and happy lifestyle. By using some of these exercise tips, you can keep pushing yourself (and your wheelchair) forward to enjoy life to the fullest for years to come.
If you’re in need of a new wheelchair or need more information on the model you’re currently using, we’d be happy to help! Adapt Home Health Care is your number one home health care products supplier and wheelchair store in the Greater Toronto Area. Our trained home health care specialists are looking forward to finding the perfect solution for you.