Maintaining your fitness level in a wheelchair isn’t too tough when you have dedication. Here is the best advice to stay fit in a wheelchair.
When you sit in a wheelchair for the entire day, your body technically remains less active and burns fewer calories than other people. This is one of the main causes behind obesity and other health issues that commonly take place within people with limited mobility.
Maintaining fitness while being in a wheelchair is more important than you think. It is not only essential to avoid physical complications, but also to improve mental and metabolic activities.
You can always search for wheelchair tips or tips for wheelchair users on the internet to discover how to keep active, but you must put in the effort to stay fit.
We’ve also prepared a complete guide with the best tips for wheelchair users to maintain fitness. Keep reading.
Exercises To Stay Fit In A Wheelchair
Let’s start with the types of exercise that are helpful to stay fit in a wheelchair:
1. Cardiovascular Exercises
Cardio exercises are very helpful for every adult human being to improve heart rate and blood circulation. It is one of the basic exercises for seniors in wheelchairs to burn calories and maintain physical fitness.
A large portion of muscles built through cardio exercises remains in the lower part of the body, which is usually dysfunctional within people using wheelchairs.
Therefore, it is comparatively tough for them to practice some major types of cardio.
However, cardio exercises like swimming, stationary hand bikes, and rowing machines are suitable for people using wheelchairs.
2. Resistance Training For Strength Improvement
Some of the major benefits of strength training include boosting calorie expenditure, brainpower, and metabolism of the body.
Moreover, it increases bone density and keeps your heart and lungs healthy by removing LDL, or bad cholesterol.
Also, you will achieve a good amount of strength and stamina by taking resistance training regularly or at least two days per week.
Working out with hand weights, dumbbells, barbells, resistance bands, and chin-ups are good strength training options for wheelchair users.
Stretching is a highly beneficial flexibility exercise that improves the musculoskeletal system of the body. It helps your body to be more flexible and removes the tendency of joint pain, cramping, and other muscular issues that take place after an exercise.
And so, stretching is a good complement to cardio exercises for an improved muscular and skeletal foundation.
4. Flexibility Exercises
Apart from stretching, several other flexibility exercises are more helpful for maintaining the flexibility of the skeletal and muscular systems of the body.
While stretching is the primary type of flexibility exercise for a beginner to start with, there are advanced exercises like tai chi and yoga that are more effective for wheelchair users to boost the flexibility of their bodies.
5. Exercises For Balance
Exercises that improve balance are essential for maintaining equal strength, focus, and balance in the body.
Since cardio and strength exercises emphasize more on the strength of the limbs, balancing exercises equally distribute the strength and power to all the muscles of the body.
Clock reach, single limb stance with arm, and balancing wand are some of the most suitable balancing exercises for people using wheelchairs.
6. Breathing Exercises
Breathing exercises might not help you build your muscles and strength, but it helps maintain proper metabolism and blood circulation of the body.
Moreover, breathing exercises are popularly known for relieving stress, anxiety, and several other mental issues. It provides instant relaxation and comfort to the mind and body.
Also, you will not face any difficulties practicing it in a wheelchair. Therefore, these exercises must be tried for mental and bodily purification after exercise.
How To Prepare Yourself For Starting With Exercises
Are you struggling to figure out how to start exercising? Don’t worry! Follow the steps below for a smoother start.
1. Create A Regular Exercise Plan And Schedule
To execute anything properly, the first step is to create a plan. So you must create a regular exercise plan with the help of a trainer or your doctor as per your requirement and vision.
After that, schedule your exercising hours and days while logically distributing the time between the different types of exercise.
2. Have A Definite Goal
If you don’t have a definite goal to achieve through exercise, you will not be able to navigate and organize your plan properly.
Without a goal, you will not be able to judge your outcome of exercise as well. Thus, it is important to have a definite goal while planning.
3. Start Slow And Eventually Upgrade Yourself
Don’t opt for heavy goals initially; that will be tough and stressful. Start with the types of exercise you enjoy and smaller goals.
Then, upgrade yourself and your goals bit by bit to achieve more.
4. Stick To Your Plan And Goal
Many times, when the plan seems difficult after practicing for a few days, you might feel like giving up. But every new activity you try for the first time takes at least a month to become a habit.
So, stay focused and stick to your plan for at least a month until it gets easier for you.
5. It’s Okay To Take Breaks
Even after creating a fixed schedule and plan, know that it is okay for you to take a break from it for a couple of days or even months. Your mental state is more important.
However, try to get back on track once you feel prepared to continue again.
Rules To Stay Safe While Exercising In A Wheelchair
Nothing is more important than your safety, especially when you’re exercising in a wheelchair. So you should never compromise your safety to reach your goal.
Here are a few quick rules that you must follow while exercising in a wheelchair to avoid severe complications:
1. Stop If You Feel Massive Pain
Listen to your body when it doesn’t support exercising anymore. While exercising, you might feel massive pain or any other issues such as:
- Chest pain;
- Shortness of breath;
- Or clammy hands.
You must stop your activity when you feel such discomfort to protect your body from internal injury.
2. Avoid Any Activity That Involves An Injured Body Part
You must not include any exercises in your plan that involve an injured part of your body unless it is suggested by the doctor.
Such activities can lead to severe and permanent damages to the injured part.
However, if the exercise is advised by a physiotherapist for the recovery of your injury, you must follow it.
3. Warm-up, Stretch, And Rest Before Starting
A warm-up should be an essential part of your exercise routine that should not be skipped. During warm-up and stretching, the body slowly adapts to movements and muscle activities.
Warm-ups make it easier for the body to adjust with the cardio or resistance exercises after that.
Also, make sure you take a short rest for a few minutes before warming up both before and after the exercise.
4. Wear Appropriate Outfits
While working out, you should wear clothes and shoes that do not restrict your movement and aid in your exercise.
Also, make sure they are easy and comfortable for you as per the weather.
5. Drink Plenty Of Water
Your body will perform the best when it is well-hydrated. Less water content in the body while exercising might lead to negative impacts in the body, causing too much decay and exhaustion.
Dos And Don’ts To Stay Fit In A Wheelchair
Here’s what you should do to stay fit in a wheelchair:
- Maintain a balanced diet with a good number of fruits, vegetables, and protein along with less carb and fat intake.
- Eat food consisting of fewer calories.
- Have an adequate amount of sleep regularly.
- Drink enough fluids and liquids, especially water, glucose, and fresh fruit extracts with no sugar.
- Try to stay active the entire day instead of spending time idling.
- Practice good posture in the wheelchair to avoid stiffness or tilted spine.
- Be attentive to your fitness activities while performing them.
- Prioritize self-care and spend time with your family and hobbies.
- Be proud when you make the effort to exercise.
- Be creative to overcome the physical challenges you’ll face while exercising.
If you want to get fit even though you use a wheelchair, stay away from these:
- Avoid sugary beverages and carbonated drinks.
- Avoid building pressure sores by maintaining constant movement and change of posture.
- Don’t underestimate your ability by considering yourself too weak.
- Don’t get insecure about others’ attitudes or thoughts about your attempt to exercise.
- Shift focus from your mobility or health issues.
- Don’t be hesitant to enter the gym in a wheelchair.
- Don’t push yourself too hard.
- Never give up.
Other Activities That Help Maintaining Fitness
Below are a few optional activities that you can further get involved in alongside exercises to stay fit in a wheelchair:
- Participating in wheelchair sports leagues;
- Attending wheelchair group fitness classes;
- Having a personal fitness trainer or a nutritionist;
- Watching online videos on wheelchair exercises and special diets;
- Taking motivation and advice from fit people with similar disabilities.
We hope we were able to help you create your fitness plan. Being in a wheelchair doesn’t stop you from achieving any goals or desires. All you need is firm determination and dedication.