Maintaining strong muscles allows people with physical disabilities to face daily life with greater confidence whilst improving physical and mental health. If you are looking to find the best wheelchair based exercises in order to strengthen both body and mind, then this post may be of some help to you.
Tips for starting with wheelchair based exercises
Exercising in a wheelchair is not always easy: at times you may lack confidence, you may not be able to find time or you simply may not know where to begin. As with many other things, motivation is key.
The end goal is always to improve your health and mood whilst at the same time being able to enjoy yourself. That is why it is important that you should look to make sport into part of your routine with something that stirs your interest.
Another consideration is the practical aspect: What are the best wheelchair based exercises? Will they be right for me? Can I do them on my own? How much time do I have to devote to them? If you are just starting out, the best thing is to seek help. A friend or relative may be able to help you find useful information and accompany you during training sessions until you feel both confident and organised enough to do it on your own.
There are also wheelchair based exercises that cannot be done alone (such as team or two player sports), meaning that assistance may be available in the form of clubs, groups or associations who can help get you started.
In most cases it is best to check with your doctor beforehand to find out if there is a set of wheelchair based exercises or sport that is particularly suitable for you.
The benefits of wheelchair based exercise
It will help you to increase muscle tone, improve fitness and better overall health.
It helps you to control your weight more easily as well as alleviating digestion problems commonly associated with sitting in a fixed position in the wheelchair.
You will gain flexibility, mobility, body awareness and muscular strength, all of which can prove very useful in your daily activities.
On a physical level you will improve your blood circulation, your posture and the stability of your spine and lower back. You may likely already suffer from an aching neck, shoulders and back, so strengthening these areas will help you to relieve these symptoms daily.
Exercise also allows you to produce more endorphins. These hormones generate a sense of well-being and help to improve mood, reduce tension and stress as well as preventing depression.
Once you begin to undertake more activities by yourself it will help you gain a greater overall independence, together with an improved state of mind and physique, allowing you to take on everyday challenges with increased energy and a positive frame of mind.
Wheelchair based exercises: some types and examples
Wheelchair based stretches and warm-up
As with any other athlete, when it comes to wheelchair exercises you should always be sure to warm up in order to lessen the risk of injuries. Unfortunately, these are most commonly sustained in the arms when practising wheelchair sports, as well as incidences of tendinitis. Daily stretching exercises help reduce accumulated stress, pain and muscular strains.
Wheelchair based strength and resistance exercises
To begin with you can use free weights or even bodybuilding machines. These types of exercises help strengthen the arms and the core, the areas of the body most commonly engaged when manually controlling the wheelchair. You can also do push-ups by placing your hands on the sides of your buttocks then trying to lift your weight from the seat of your wheelchair.
Wheelchair exercises aimed at increasing and improving resistance usually use small, flexible bands that are placed at the back of the chair to provide resistance when pulled. Exercises using these bands especially help strengthen the upper body. So as well as doing bicep curls, you can also do hip and shoulder rotations.
Wheelchair based aerobic and cardiovascular training
This type of exercise aims to raise your heart rate and improve your cardiovascular health. Sports such as wheelchair basketball and rugby are ideal, though there are also other fun but less physical options such as
dancing. You can even do wheelchair based aerobic training on the running track, which will certainly improve your heart rate and provide a great workout for your arms.
Wheelchair based exercises to improve flexibility
Exercises such as yoga can be performed in a wheelchair and are designed to improve flexibility whilst helping improve both your breathing and concentration. Remember when choosing a sport that it does not have to be taxing!