Sitting is the new smoking is a popular phrase these days to address the effects of inactivity. Sitting, in and of itself, is becoming a risk factor for other co-morbidities such as obesity which can lead to heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, back pain, and more.

But what if you cannot stand and are wheelchair bound? How can a wheelchair user increase his/her mobility to achieve a healthier lifestyle or a cardio/aerobic workout while seated?

Those with limited mobility have found great success in maintaining physical fitness through the application of upper body and chair-based exercises. The ability to strengthen your core muscles, upper body, arms, and torso, is possible even for those who do not have use of their legs.

Embarking on a fitness journey as a wheelchair user is easy to start. Some wheelchair exercises can be done without any equipment. Others can be done with items around the house that you can lift over your head to create resistance. As well, investing in simple exercise items such as elastic bands, small handheld weights, or a medicine ball can help increase your fitness goals as you become stronger.

Seated chair exercises to target different parts of the upper body can include:

  • Side twists while holding a ball in your hands with your arms stretched out in front of you to target your core and oblique muscles.
  • Overhead raises with weights or a heavy object that you can manage repetitive lifting with will help strengthen your shoulders and core.
  • Elastic band or handheld weight curls will strengthen biceps. Start with as many reps as you can and aim to increase those reps slightly with each passing day.
  • Lateral shoulder raises are where you place your arms are down at the side of your wheelchair and then lift them forwards until they are above your head, bring down, and then lift sideways until above your head. These alternating exercises can help strengthen your shoulders.
  • For triceps exercises, use a handheld weight or elastic band and raise it above your head with your arms extended. Bend the elbows back holding the object and then straighten your arms again.

When it comes to a cardio and aerobic workout, there are a number of wheelchair exercises that will raise your heart rate, even with something as simple as pushing your own wheelchair. Other advanced technology, such as the VitaGlide, provides resistance technology that simulates the motions of cross-country skiing (push-pull) or rowing (push together -pull together). Through these motions, the VitaGlide works to increase heart rate and develop upper body and core strength with cardio conditioning. Try to target your heart rate for the length of your cardio workout and always warm up before beginning any exercise.