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Wheelchair Exercises For Seniors

It is the sad truth. Most people think that seniors in wheelchairs can not and do not want to keep fit, take part in any exercise or continue taking care of their physical appearance.

This isn’t true at all. Really, seniors are still able and willing to do all of these things, but it might be a bit tougher, take a longer period of time, and require some clever adaptation. In this article, you are going to learn just how to keep fit by doing one wheelchair exercise at a time.

Seniors can benefit both physically and mentally from weekly exercises, especially those in wheelchair. Having limited mobility doesn’t have to stop you from keeping fit. While many exercises for seniors utilize weights, balls and bands, there are also easy routines where all that is needed is…you! Feel free to improve your routine by subtracting or adding different exercises; what is important is that you will become more and more active. 

The fact that you are on a wheelchair does not reduce the benefits or need for physical exercises. Seniors who do resistance training and cardio may experience improvements in psychological well-being, mood, muscular strength, cardiovascular health and endurance. Also, regular exercise can help older individuals to maintain independence. Seniors should consult their doctors before beginning an exercise routine to determine the right frequency and exertion level.

It is sometimes difficult to find body exercises that you are physically fit to do as a senior, but it is even more difficult when you’re wheelchair bound. However, do not lose hope as there are many wheelchair exercises to choose from that can help keep you flexible, fit, strong and healthy. 

With the different wheelchair exercises for seniors that are meant to increase your flexibility, provide fitness, and stretch the body to help stop soreness, you will probably be doing a lot of moving while on your chair, and thus may need a wheelchair belt to ensure that you remain in your seat.

Types Of Wheelchair Exercises 

As a full-time wheelchair user, indulging in wheelchair exercises will leave you with important health benefits and could also help you manage your daily life.

Regular wheelchair aerobic exercises can raise your heart rate and make you break a sweat – while muscle-strengthening exercises are important for your health and overall wellbeing as wheelchair users, the same way they are for any other adult.

Whatever your level of physical strength is, there will always be a sport or an activity for you.

Physical activity does not always have to mean paying a visit to the gym or taking part in competitive sports, though these are also great options. Activity can happen in your home and take many different forms. 

To improve your overall health, try choosing only activities that help improve your muscle strength and heart health. Here are the best exercises for seniors who are wheelchair bound. 

1. Deep Breaths

Cool down with ten intensive deep breathes. Breath in through the nose and gently exhale through the mouth.

As a senior, exercising and stretching should never cause you pain, pay attention to your body and begin easy and slowly with gradual progression. 

It is always advisable to consult your physician before beginning your fitness routine in order to find out if there are things you need to avoid, recommended frequency, and appropriate level of exertion.

2. Front Raises 

Front raises increases your upper-body strength and build the shoulders. Strong shoulders puts an end to the difficulty that comes with lifting heavy objects from the ground or performing daily activities like reaching up to get a book from the bookshelf. 

Hold a light weight in both hands. Straighten your back while pressing it firmly against the back of your wheelchair. Place your hands at the top of your legs. Straighten your arms but don’t let your elbows to lock. 

Point both knuckles forward and straighten both wrists. The weight should be lifted in front of your shoulders, in the same direction to the floor. Repeat fifteen times, stopping only when your shoulders get tired. 

3. Bicep Curls 

Bicep curls provides strength to the upper-front part of your arms. Strong biceps make it a lot easier to move items, hold objects, and to carry out your various daily activities, such as grooming and dressing yourself. 

Hold a light weight in both hands, sit up straight while pressing your back against your wheelchair. Breathe in to tighten your stomach muscles. Place your upper arm by the sides of the wheelchair and point both hands forward. 

Lift both weights against your shoulders repeatedly. Complete ten to fifteen reps, then stop when you are tired.

4. Air Punches 

Throwing some air-punches can leave you with a lot of emotional and physical benefits. This cardiovascular exercise increases your heart rate, elevates circulation and reduces weight. 

Also, the exercise can be a stress-buster, a way of alleviating tension or frustration. Sit upright in your wheelchair, press your back up against the pad while tightening your stomach muscles. 

Bend your upper arm 90 degrees while lifting your elbows by your sides. Straighten your wrists. Punch the air with your right arm and return it back to the start position. Then punch the air with your left arm and return it back to the start position. 

Keep punching faster as you get used to this exercise. Continue the exercise until you are tired, typically twenty to sixty seconds. If need be, pause and take short breaks between punches. 

5. Wood Chops 

Wood chops helps to develop the arm and core muscles. Strengthening the mid-section is very important for seniors who are wheelchair bound, especially due to the fact that sitting severely affects the stomach muscles and the lower back. 

This exercise builds the abdominal muscle, lowering the risk of abdominal weakness or poor posture. Using both hands, hold a light weight. Sit upright while pressing your back against your wheelchair. 

Relax your shoulders and tighten your abdominal muscles. Point out your arms and bend both elbows slightly. Lift the light weight over your right shoulder. Then lower the same weight to the left part of your left hip. Continue doing this while keeping your hips and shoulders squared forward. 

Lift the light weight back above the right shoulder for fifteen times. Stop when your arms and abs fatigue. Allow your arms to rest for a while, then do fifteen reps again on the opposite side.

6. Neck Rolls

Warm up the muscles around the neck by gently moving the chin down towards the chest then over to the left shoulder and repeat five times. Then roll the head to the right shoulder for additional five times. Keep pressure off the spine by only rolling the head sideways. 

7. Shoulder Lifts

Slowly lift your both shoulders straight up to the direction of your ears and back down afterwards. Repeat ten times.

8. Arm Stretches

Extend your hands out in front of you, then interlace your fingers. Sit in a straight position and keep your arms fully stretched out in a forward position. While your hands are clasped together, comfortably raise your arms up high and slowly bring them back down. This should be repeated ten times. 

9. Side Twist

Gently twist your body to the right then hold onto the right side of your wheelchair with your both hands. Ensure that the head turns with the body. Stay in this position for ten seconds and repeat on the opposite side.

10. Knee Lifts

Hold tight onto your wheelchair using both hands, one on the right and the other on the left side. Gently lift a knee high up as comfortably as you can and hold for three seconds then slowly return your foot to the ground by lowering your knee. Repeat three to four times then switch to the other knee.

11. Seated Forward Bend

The seated forward bend exercise helps in stretching your shoulders, spine and neck. Curl your spine in a forward position and let your torso be dropped towards your thighs. Allow your head hang heavy and relaxed towards the ground while allowing your arms to hang towards your feet. Hold for forty five seconds, then rise back up with one vertebra straightened out at a time. 

12. Knee To Chest

While this move helps in strengthening your core, arms, and shoulders, it will stretch your hamstrings as well. Hold the back of one thigh with your hands. Hold your core tightly. Using your arms and shoulders, lift your leg high up. Hold your leg for forty seconds, then gently lower your leg. Repeat the same process on the other side. 

13. Sit And Reach

The lengthening motion of the Sit and Reach exercise will stretch your neck and your sides. Lift an arm towards the ceiling. Stretch that same side of the body as much as possible. Hold for fifteen seconds. Then repeat on opposite side. 

14. Seated Foot Taps

If you can freely move your lower legs, then few minutes of the Seated Foot Taps exercise can increase your heart rate. The quicker you can go, the quicker your heart rate will get. 

Try doing this exercise for as long as five minutes, you can also increase the duration whenever you do this exercise. First, begin with your toes slightly touching the floor. Bring a leg forward and tap your heel on the floor. 

With a foot still in a forward position, point both toes of your feet down, tapping both toes on the floor. Slowly raise toes of your front foot and tap the heel on the floor again. Return both feet to a starting position. Repeat using the other foot. 


You have heard that exercise is meant for everyone, but what if you’re an elderly person on a wheelchair? It is much harder to cover the basics if you are bound to a wheelchair or suffer other physical disabilities. Nevertheless, exercise is far more important for those who depend on wheelchairs for mobility. It gives you energy, keeps your body strong, reduces fatigue and help reduce stress as well. The key is being able to find the appropriate exercise for your situation.

Generally, people who depend on wheelchairs for mobility can take part in resistance exercises to help improve upper body strength and reduce their chances of injury as well. However, you should always discuss your exercise plans with your physical therapist or doctor to get guidance and clearance. 

We all know that exercise is good for the body, but it also helps your mood. Exercise can reduce stress, cheer you up, help you rest better at night, and increase your energy levels. Do not think that because you are a senior and you are wheelchair bound, you can not reap the rewards of exercise. There are a lot of exercise options that are available to help you meet your fitness goals! 

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