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How to Exercise While Seated in a Wheelchair?

How to Exercise While Seated in a Wheelchair?
Kevin Cleary

Exercising while seated in a wheelchair is important for your overall health and can head off potential problems down the road. HPFY offers a wide variety of options for wheelchair users to stay in shape.

How to Exercise While Seated in a Wheelchair?

Our bodies are designed to move and when our mobility becomes impaired to the point where we need a wheelchair to get around; this immobility can have negative effects. Just because somebody is seated in a wheelchair doesn’t mean they have to give up on exercising. Understanding what is available to help maintain your physical well-being can help those with limited mobility who depend on a wheelchair to keep in shape and head off potential health issues down the road.

Exercise Options

Once the need for a wheelchair has been made, often those people may not realize that they can still exercise. Whether you are looking for wheelchair cardio exercises or core exercises for wheelchair users, you are limited only by your imagination. While you may not be able to use what is considered conventional exercise equipment, there are a number of options available to those who wish to exercise in a wheelchair and they may include:

  • Elastic Resistance Bands
  • Exercise Peddlers
  • Pulley Systems
  • Putty
  • Hand/Arm Exercisers
  • Dumbbells

The benefits of exercising while seated in your wheelchair include increased range of motion, improved muscle tone and bone mass, easing of muscle and joint pain, increased stamina, and improved balance. By exercising, you can even prevent future injury. You should work with your physical therapist to come up with a home plan that can cover everything from wheelchair exercises for seniors to wheelchair leg exercises. Obviously many of these plans will be determined by whatever your physical limitation is.

Equipment Choices

By working with your physical therapist it should not be difficult to come up with an exercise routine while you are seated in your wheelchair. Many of these pieces of exercise equipment are designed for the able-bodied, but with a little bit of imagination they can be easily adapted for those seated in a wheelchair. Sometimes it just means thinking outside of the box!! As with any exercise program, you should check with your doctor or physician before beginning any exercise program. You should also consult your physical therapist and maybe even schedule an in-home visit to see about any special adaptations you may need to make. Some of your equipment choices may include:

How to Exercise While Seated in a Wheelchair?

Elastic Resistance Band Exercises

This piece of equipment is extremely versatile. The different colored bands come in a variety of resistances, so you can start low and work up to a higher resistance. Manufacturers such as TheraBand and CanDo offer a variety of resistance bands in many different tensions and resistances. They can target the arms, shoulders, and even legs (depending upon your disability) and exercises can be designed easily from a seated position.

Peddling Exercisers

How to Exercise While Seated in a Wheelchair? Normally this piece of equipment is used on the floor and pedaled much like a bicycle, but with a little ingenuity they can be placed on a tabletop and used with your hands and arms instead of your feet. This can work at your upper body and even help with cardiovascular exercising. These not only offer potential wheelchair leg exercises, but improved range of motion for the upper body and the strengthening of the shoulders. Drive and CanDo are just a couple of manufacturers that offer a range of peddlers that can be used by a wide variety of patients, so tailoring the right one for your ability and budget should not be a problem.

Hand/Arm Strengthening

How to Exercise While Seated in a Wheelchair?

Many wheelchair users often propel themselves with their hands and arms, so exercising your hands and arms can ensure that you will always be able to manipulate the manual wheelchairs by yourself and not be dependent on somebody pushing you. Rolyan, MedDev, and BigGrip are just a few examples of companies that offer hand exercisers. These can include squeeze balls and/or spring tension squeezers that can exercise the entire hand at once or individual fingers. You can even opt for Gyro exercisers that use your muscles to counter the Gyro action of the device. Dyna-Flex offers a prime example of this type of wheelchair exercise equipment. Not only can this help you maneuver your wheelchair, but it can also help stabilize you while transferring in or out of the wheelchair in a safe manner.

How to Exercise While Seated in a Wheelchair?

Doorjamb/Pulley System

This type of exercise system allows wheelchair users to anchor a system of elastic bands of various resistances to a doorway or some other solid object. This can allow you to take your exercise routine with you on the road if necessary. Blue Ranger and Body Sport provide users with simple to use pulley systems perfect for an upper body workout for wheelchair users. Simply attach the anchor to a doorway and utilize the resistance bands while seated your wheelchair much like you would with any other elastic resistance band. Easy peasy!!

Body Sport Neoprene Dumbbells


Just as an able-bodied person would, dumbbells can be used in a variety of exercises to build upper body muscle tone and strength. Exercises can include bicep curls, tricep extensions, and shoulder presses and more. For somebody in a wheelchair, these muscle groups can be extremely important.

Being confined to a wheelchair may make it seem like an end to your exercising, but that is unequivocally untrue. You can easily establish a simple exercise routine that can help you not only stay healthy, but maintain your independence and quality-of-life. This sense of purpose also can help with a positive mental outlook. Simply work with your physical therapist to develop a program that is beneficial and safe and as long as you stick to the program you should be on the road to exercising and staying healthy.


Disclaimer: All content found on our website, including images, videos, infographics and text were created solely for informational purposes. Our content should never be used for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment of any medical conditions. Content shared on our websites is not meant to be used as a substitute for advice from a certified medical professional. Reliance on the information provided on our website as a basis for patient treatment is solely at your own risk. We urge all our customers to always consult a physician or a certified medical professional before trying or using a new medical product.

HPFY Kevin Cleary

Kevin Cleary

Kevin Cleary has been a Health Products For You contributor for many years and has a degree in marketing. His health and wellness journey has a very personal meaning and has guided him in his content writing for HPFY.

In 2006, ...

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