There are countless reasons a person may need the assistance of mobility devices. And whether you're reason for using a wheelchair is due to progressive disease, physical trauma, or any of the other many reasons, it’s important to honor what you still can do. That can be challenging when it feels like your body is starting to fail you, but we promise that reveling in what your body is still capable of will make you feel amazing! One of the best ways to do this is intentional movement (also known as the dreaded exercise). Moving our bodies brings life and vitality to all of our cells in the form of blood and oxygen. So on the days when your body is extra achy, exercise can be a way to nourish and soothe your muscles and joints.
Plus, it has been proven over and over again that movement improves mental health- and who doesn’t like that perk?!
As always, we want to be as helpful as possible, so we did the research to find safe, effective, and easy exercises to help you begin your movement journey. These exercises can be done without any equipment at the beginner level, and you can add weights/resistance bands if you’d like more of a challenge. We will discuss the exercises based on the muscle groups they target- core, upper body, and lower body.
**As with any of our suggestions, it is extremely important for you to discuss changes to your wellness practice with your doctor and physical therapist**
CORE- Skip to Video of Core Exercises
We are starting with core exercises because core stability is the foundation for the rest of your body’s strength! Your arms can only be as strong as your core allows. But what exactly is the “core.” Our core is a large group of muscles that is made up of all the muscles that surround your abdomen (front, back, and sides; deep and superficial) as well as the muscles that stabilize our hips and shoulder joints. With so much of our body involved, you can see why it’s so important. Having a strong core is also very supportive and protective of your spine. It’s common for those new to life on wheels to experience new or worsening back pain. This can be due to factors like progressive disease and injury- which you may not have much control over. Or it could have to do with posture and the extended time spent in a seated position- which you can do something about! One of the best things you can do for this kind of back pain is to strengthen your core. Here is a video of an excellent core routine for beginners that would be safe to do in any of our wheelchairs (with wheel locks engaged) or sitting in a kitchen chair. We like this video especially because it does not require any fancy or expensive equipment and you can make it more/less challenging simply by adding/removing how many times you repeat the exercises!
UPPER BODY- Skip to the Video of Upper Body Exercises
While the importance of upper body strength is not as glaring as core strength, it does deserve some attention. Especially if you are using a self-propelled wheelchair. And though not everyone in a wheelchair completely lacks utilization of their legs, most in a wheelchair still have to use their upper body for every daily task. We want everyday tasks to feel as easy as possible, so that’s why we think it’s important to keep that upper body strong. We found this video to be an excellent starting point no matter what level you are at. To make it easier, just begin with the first half of the video. To make it more challenging, try holding water bottles or cans during the exercises!
LOWER BODY- Read this one before skipping to the videos!
Obviously, not everyone in this community has full use of the lower body and we definitely want to be sensitive to that. If that’s you, focusing on your upper body and core is perfect! But for those who do have use of their legs, this is important. Our legs house our largest muscles and it’s important to keep nutrients and oxygen flowing through them. So we gotta move ‘em. Movement can be an effective pain killer, so keep that in mind if leg pain is one of the reasons you are using a chair. So we found two video options for you. Here are three super simple exercises you can do throughout the day to just keep your blood flowing smoothly. And here is a video with the goal of building strength in your legs.
Whether you are able to exercise five times a week or five minutes a week, anything is better than nothing. One of the best ways to set yourself up for success is to make it easy. Our FLUX DART makes it easy to go from desk work to working out. This narrow wheelchair with flip-up armrests is ready to exercise anywhere, just engage the wheel locks and you are ready to go. And the best part? The porous fabric will keep you cool and dry, even if you do work up a sweat!
At the end of the day, it’s about taking the time to love your body. Even when it feels like it’s failing you, a little love goes a long way. So get some intentional movement in today- you got this!