Exercising is important for all of us. It keeps us fit and healthy whilst clearing our minds and setting us up for the day, or relaxing us in time for bed. There are many benefits to adding exercise to your routine, including:
1. Increasing your endurance
- Helping with muscle or joint pains
- Building muscle, and strength!
- Building on your already existing range of motion
- Improving your balance and core strength
- Strengthening the body to prevent injury in the future
These are physical benefits, but the mental benefits, such as increased energy, better sleep and fewer mood swings, can be just as important. For those of us who use wheelchairs, creating and keeping a regular exercise regime isn’t the easiest, especially when many exercises involve lower body strength, or continued daily repetitions for strength building (which we are often unable to do on our ‘bad days’). Nevertheless, we’ve compiled five cardio exercises that you can do whilst sat in your wheelchair. Some will be easier than others depending on your impairment and range of motion, but we hope that this list will enable you to start thinking about creating an exercise routine that fits into your life in a fun and stress-free way!
2. Medicine Ball bouncing
Using either a medicine ball or lighter basketball, depending on your strength, line your wheelchair up in front of a wall and bounce the ball between yourself and the wall. Do twenty repetitions to start with, or see how many times you can bounce the ball on the wall in two minutes to really feel your arms burn from the workout!
3. Aeroplane arms
Sit upright in your wheelchair with your back straight, and extend your arms out straight at your sides. Using slow, large motions and keeping your arms, hands and back straight, create big circles with your arms. Start by going anti-clockwise for twenty repetitions, then try it clockwise.
4. Hand cycle
You might need to go to a local gym for this one, or you could try the real thing by buying an Invacare handbike! There are exercise bikes out there, and there are exercise hand bikes! Ask an assistant to remove the seat from the hand bike if you are unable to transfer, and align your wheelchair in front of the hand cycle. Then, do with your hands what other people do with their feet – cycle in circles as fast as you can for 5 minutes and see how energised you feel!
If you are looking to gain more strength, small hand weights are a great place to start, and can be bought in bundles online and used at home. Start with a couple of kg weights, and use them to do bicep curls, shoulder presses and straight arm shoulder raises in repetitions of ten. Repeat daily, and build on the heaviness of your weights and number of repetitions as you improve.
6. Don’t forget to stretch!
Before and after exercise, stretching is vitality important. Move, rotate and shake your arms, wrists and fingers regularly to avoid injury. If exercise is hurting at any point – stop, rest and continue when ready.
We hope these tips will help you to conquer exercise from your chair!