Exercising in a Wheelchair or with a Walker

7th Apr 16

Having the use of a wheelchair or walker doesn’t mean you can’t exercise – in fact it’s very important to keep exercising, not just for the physical benefits, but for the mental benefits as well. People who exercise more feel, happier, less stress and many note improvements in mental states, such as depression and anxiety. Exercising releases chemicals in the brain - amongst those are BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) which promotes the growth, maturation and maintenance of neurons in the brain, and endorphins, which fights stress and anxiety.

Other physical benefits include:

  • Toned, stronger muscles
  • Keeping weight in check
  • Increases flexibility and mobility
  • Improves circulation, spine stability and posture

If you have a disability, severe weight problem, arthritis, or another ongoing problem, or you feel you’re becoming frail as you age, don’t let that stop you! No matter your age or health, you’ll still be able to experience the benefits of exercise.

Before you get started

Before you embark in any exercise new regime, it is strongly recommended that you get in contact with your doctor or physical therapist. They’ll be able to give you personalised advice on which activities are best for you, and how much exercise per day/week you should aim to undertake in the earlier stages of a programme.

Be sure to set yourself goals, and get support from friends, family or a spouse to keep you motivated. It takes time to set up a habit such as exercise, so keep at it! If you’re self-conscious or hesitant about injury, create an environment where you feel safe and happy. Exercise doesn’t always mean going to a gym – you can join classes with people of similar abilities, employ a personal trainer, or work out with friends. Low risk activities reduce the risk of injury, and correctly warming up and cooling down before and after exercise respectively helps avoid muscle strains and other injuries.

Remember – always start off slow. Listen to your body. If you feel dizzy, any discomfort or pain, lightheadedness, chest pain, shortness of breath or an irregular heartbeat, stop exercising. Be sure to wear appropriate clothing, and drink plenty of water.

Exercising in a chair or wheelchair

A number of ways of exercising can be achieved from a chair or wheelchair. Make sure the chair is securely anchored, and sit up tall to use your abdominal muscles as well.

Cardiovascular exercises
Cardiovascular exercise raises the heartbeat, burns calories and loosens stiff joints. Try these to get your heart pumping:

  • Adapted aerobics like for those with osteoporosis or spinal cord injuries
  • With or without weights, try rapid air punches – these are fun to play along with a Nintendo Wii game console.
  • Some gyms have machines for wheelchair users. The arms are used for rowing or bicycling, or portable pedal machines can be hired or bought for the home.
  • Wheelchair sports – rugby, basketball, volleyball and more are available all over Australia and is a great way to exercise while making friends and having fun.

Strength training
Traditional weight exercises can still be achieved from a chair or wheelchair, especially upper body ones like bicep curls, shoulder presses and triceps extensions.

You don’t even need expensive equipment or a gym membership to do weight training – simple objects like soup cans or bottles filled with water or sand are great starting points.

Use a heavier resistance band or increase the weight you use as your strength improves.

Flexibility exercises
Stretching during the day helps improve flexibility and relieves sore joints. Yoga and tai chi can be practiced from a chair or wheelchair, with adapted poses. Try these great stretches to keep your waist, back and stomach muscles limber.

Exercising with a walker

If you have limited mobility, you can still attempt a lot of the exercises above, provided you’re in a safe environment with support on hand. A good idea is to keep a secure, padded chair close by if you need to quickly sit down and rest.

Using a frame, you can try these exercises:

  • Swinging each leg forward and back, and side to side
  • Move each knee up and down in a marching motion
  • Hold onto the side of the frame and swing alternate arms in a slow circle
  • Move your shoulders forward and backward in circles

Other great low impact options include aquarobics, cycling on a stationary bicycle, or walking.

Exercise is an important part of life. Improve your mobility, health, and quality of life with a bit of exercise every day – you’ll see improvements in no time! For movement around the home, Vestner is here to help. Our range of quality Pandect lifts are designed with ease of use and attractiveness in mind. Contact us today to find out more.

Written by

As National Sales and Operations Manager, Mark’s role includes building and maintaining business relationships, and managing and overseeing larger projects, all while keeping a watchful eye out for business opportunities.  Having a background in the health and disability sector provides Mark with the necessary understanding to assist clients when considering access solutions for people with mobility requirements.

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