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Wheelchair Exercises test

Written by OurParents Staff
 about the author
6 minute readLast updated April 10, 2023

As our bodies age, we often experience limited mobility, perhaps from an injury, disease, or the effects of aging. We, or someone we love, may even need to begin using a wheelchair regularly, a change that can impact life in many ways. The good news is that even from a wheelchair, a person can pursue the recommended 30 minutes of exercise a day and reap benefits, including improved flexibility and joint mobility, maintenance of overall muscle strength, and even a lift in mood.

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The simple workouts below, all done from a wheelchair or sitting position, can help you:
  • Lubricate your joints and keep them flexible
  • Stabilize your spine
  • Increase circulation
  • Strengthen muscles for mobility
As a reminder, always check with your doctor before you begin any new exercise regime, stop if you feel pain, and drink plenty of water. It’s also important to stretch before and after your exercises. People with diabetes or high blood pressure should take special care to monitor their physical well-being while exercising.

Seated Lower Body Exercises

ANKLES: Circle the ankle by drawing a circle with the toes, 4 times to the right, then 4 times to the left. Repeat the exercise with the opposite foot.
SHINS: Tap your toes by lifting the toes of both feet (with the heels on the floor) and dropping the toes. Repeat 8 times and pause. Then lift toes and hold for 1 second and release. Repeat 4 times.
CALVES: Extend the leg from the knee and flex the ankle. Point the toes toward the knee and feel the calf muscle stretching. Repeat 4 times on each leg, alternating legs. This exercise will help avoid cramping in the lower leg.
QUADRICEPS (front of the thigh, above the knee): Extend the leg forward. Tighten muscles around the kneecap, hold, then release. Repeat 4 times on each leg. Put your hand on the quadricep to feel the muscles contract. This strengthens the muscles needed to get up and down in a chair or on and off the toilet.
HIPS & REAR: While sitting, squeeze the buttocks muscles together and release. Repeat 4 times. Then lean onto one hip and tighten the abdominal muscles. Repeat 4 times, alternating right and left hip.
BACK & HAMSTRINGS (back of the leg): Bring one knee up towards your chest (you can also circle the ankle at the same time to add in ankle mobility). Repeat 8 times, alternating knees. This can help prevent low backaches.

Let our care assessment guide you

Our free tool provides options, advice, and next steps based on your unique situation.

Seated Upper Body Exercises:

SPINE and NECK: Sit up tall and straighten the spine. Hook the right arm over the back of the right side of the chair and reach across the body with the left arm for spinal rotation. Holding this position, look right as far back behind you as you can. Next, look forward and then look left. Repeat the exercise on the opposite side.
SHOULDERS: Lean out over the side of your chair without slouching, keeping your rib cage slightly lifted. Allow the right arm to dangle straight down to the floor and keep it totally relaxed, including the fingertips. Begin circling the arm from the shoulder, gently starting the arm rotation then letting it circle on its own (it does not need to be a perfect circle). Count to 8 and then reverse the circle. Repeat the exercise with the left shoulder and arm.
SHOULDERS: Roll right shoulder forward, then up, then back, then down. Do exercise with the left shoulder. Repeat 4 times on each shoulder, then roll both shoulders at the same time. Repeat 4 times.
BACK: Pretend you are holding a tray in front of you at waist level with palms up. Elbows should be lightly touching the sides of your body. Now pull the right elbow back, then the left elbow, squeeze both shoulder blades together and then release. Repeat 4 times. This exercise strengthens the muscles that control your posture.
NECK: Align your chin parallel to the floor, then turn your head to the right, looking back with your eyes as far as you can. Repeat the exercise to the left. This exercise promotes proper neck alignment.
ARMS: Look straight ahead and lift both arms from the side of the body up toward the ceiling and then back down toward the floor. Repeat one time. Reach up with one arm at a time as though you’re picking apples from a tall tree. Repeat 8 times, alternating right and left. Stretch your fingers as you reach up. This will help lengthen your spine, increase circulation and range of motion, and exercise the fingers.
SPINE: Reach up with your right arm while reaching down with your left arm, and stretch 2 times in both directions, stretching your fingertips as you reach. Repeat exercises with the left arm up and right arm down.

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