The Best Exercises for Seniors Who Use Wheelchairs

Simply because an older adult uses a wheelchair does not negate their desire to remain active and involved in life. While we cannot do all we used to, many senior people in wheelchairs still wish to stay as fit as possible. Fortunately for them, there are several workouts that they can do without leaving their chair.

Finding workouts that you can perform as a senior might be difficult enough, and it becomes considerably more difficult when you are a wheelchair user. However, several wheelchair workout choices are available to help you maintain your strength, flexibility, and health.

Exercise for Adults Who Use Wheelchairs

Typically, when we think of exercise, we think of activities that require standing, walking, and moving. These activities are, of course, difficult for seniors who use a wheelchair for outdoor use.

Nonetheless, regular exercise is important for seniors who want to live an active, healthy, and happy life, whether or not they use a wheelchair.

Loss of autonomy and independence can lead to feelings of despair and loneliness in many older persons. Being unable to do routine daily tasks such as lifting simple household objects or moving freely from room to room or from inside to outside without help is unpleasant. It may result in a feeling of hopelessness, putting them at risk of future sickness or damage.

However, strength training can significantly improve everyday living for elders who use wheelchairs. When you are strong, just getting through the day becomes a blessing. It is a constant reminder of your better fitness and health, which motivates you to exercise. There are several benefits of wheelchair exercises as well.

What Are the Benefits?

Exercise benefits everyone, and this is true for individuals who use wheelchairs as well. They must still deal with everyday chores such as getting dressed, retrieving items from shelves, and getting in and out of a chair. Certain individuals can choose to take it a step further and engage in adapted sports. Wheelchair exercises have the following benefits:

  • Management of rheumatoid arthritis. Keeping the joints lubricated is facilitated by movement.
  • Obesity management and prevention
  • Improved sleep
  • Reduced risk of heart disease and cancer
  • Stress and despair have a lesser influence
  • Increased cognitive sharpness and decreased chance of developing dementia or postponing its onset

Finally, frequent exercise improves one’s overall quality of life. Daily physical tasks become less taxing and more pleasurable. A consistent workout regimen improves people’s self-esteem regardless of their age or physical limitations.

Flexibility Exercises

Seated Forward Bend

This exercise will benefit your spine, neck, and shoulders by stretching them.

  • Curl your spine forward and bring your body into contact with your thighs.
  • Allow your head to dangle freely and heavily toward the ground and your arms to dangle down near your feet.
  • Hold for 30-45 seconds, then gently return to the starting position, straightening up one vertebra at a time.

Sit and Reach

This exercise’s extending action will stretch your sides and neck.

  • Elevate one arm to the ceiling.
  • Extend the same side of your body as far as possible with your fingers.
  • Turn your head and maintain an upward focus on your hand.
  • Maintain for 10 seconds.
  • Carry out the same procedure on the other side.

Knee to Chest

While strengthening the arms, shoulders, and core, this motion also stretches the hamstrings.

  • With both hands, grasp the back of one leg.
  • Brace your core and maintain its tightness.
  • Raise your leg as high as you can with the help of your shoulders and arms.
  • Hold for 30 seconds before gradually lowering the leg.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Strength Building Exercises

Strength workouts are critical for maintaining muscular tone. While some of these exercises can be performed without equipment, others may need small dumbbells or a resistance band. Also, you can do any of these exercises swiftly to transform them into strength and cardio workouts.

Wheelchair Pushups

This workout requires no additional equipment and strengthens the arms, shoulders, and chest.

  • Grip both armrests of the wheelchair.
  • Maintain a firm core.
  • Push with your arms until they are as straight and as high as they will go, ejecting yourself from your chair’s seat.
  • Reduce your height gradually—do not let yourself fall.
  • Begin with ten repetitions and gradually increase the number of reps each time you do the exercise.

Overhead Presses

Overhead presses focus on the shoulders and triceps. This maneuver requires dumbbells. You can perform one arm at a time or both at the same time.

  • Grip the dumbbell in front of your shoulder with one hand, your upper arm against your side, and your palms facing inward.
  • While maintaining a firm core, gently raise your hand straight up to the ceiling, the action starting in your shoulders.
  • Once your arm is completely extended, return to the beginning position carefully.
  • Begin with eight pushes per arm and gradually increase the number as you gain strength.

Bicep Curls

You will need dumbbells for this workout to assist in increasing arm strength. Alternatively, you might stretch a resistance band behind your wheelchair, holding one end in each hand.

  • Grip the dumbbell or end of the resistance band firmly with your arm fully extended, elbow straight, and palm facing front.
  • Maintaining your upper arm against your side, gradually close your elbow and elevate your hand as high as you comfortably can.
  • Reintroduce your hand to the beginning position gradually.
  • Begin with eight curls on each side and gradually increase the number as your strength increases.

Banded Pull Apart

A vital component of a strong core is a strong back, and being in a wheelchair does not preclude you from strengthening your back. Try this motion with your resistance band.

  • With both hands, grasp the resistance band’s center portion, approximately two feet apart.
  • Maintaining a back and down position for your shoulders, draw your shoulder blades together to allow your arms to spread apart, stretching the band.
  • Extend your arms as far out to the side as possible, preferably all the way.
  • Return to the starting position gradually.
  • Begin by doing this exercise five times, then progressively increase.

Triceps Extensions

Triceps extensions are an excellent alternative if you want to concentrate on the backs of your arms. You will need a dumbbell for this workout, and you can do it with one or both arms.

  • With your arm completely stretched above and your hand extending toward the ceiling, hold a dumbbell in your hand.
  • By bending your arm and pointing your elbow toward the sky, lower the dumbbell toward the rear of your shoulder.
  • Raise your hand slowly back to the beginning position.
  • Begin with five repetitions on each arm and progressively increase the number.

Cardiovascular Exercises

Cardiovascular activities raise your heart rate and are critical for heart health and weight management. Even if you exercise at a modest level, there are several advantages.

Seated Twists

This workout will tone your obliques while also increasing your heart rate. The quicker you move, the greater the effect. To make this workout more enjoyable, try doing it in time with your favorite music.

  • Raise your hands to chest height in front of you, elbows bent, palms facing away from you, and fingers pointing upward.
  • If you have any movement in your legs and hips, gently point your knees to one side of your wheelchair.
  • Make a counter-clockwise rotation of your upper body while keeping your core firm.
  • On the other side, twist your knees and upper torso.
  • For three minutes, alternate twisting to alternate sides.

Seated Foot Taps

If you can move your lower legs, a few minutes of this exercise will raise your heart rate. Your heart rate will increase as you accelerate. Aim for five minutes of this workout and work your way up to ten minutes each time.

  • Begin by softly touching your toes to the ground.
  • Bring one leg forward and tap the heel of that leg on the floor.
  • While keeping one foot forward, point both toes down and tap both toes on the ground.
  • Raise the front foot’s toes and touch the heel of that foot once more on the ground.
  • Restore the initial position of the feet.
  • Rep with the other foot.


When doing this exercise, you can either have your arms stretched out in front of you or bend your elbows and place your fists in front of your shoulders. However, if you bend your elbows, you may want to keep your hands closer together on the band.


It is worth remembering that any sort of exercise is beneficial to your health. Mobility limitations make certain exercises easier than others. However, regardless of your physical condition, you should strive to include the exercises mentioned above in your routines. It will help you maintain your fitness and wellness. Best of Luck!