Easy Exercises For Seniors in Wheel Chairs

When confined to a wheelchair, it is important that regular exercise be undertaken to enhance the tone and strength in other limbs as well as helping to avoid DVT (deep vein thrombosis) and other poor health outcomes.

Here are some simple wheelchair exercises that are appropriate for senior citizens. These exercises will help with the quality of life and are not complicated.


There are three types of exercises-strength, resistance and cardio. All have their place as exercises for seniors in wheel chairs.

Cardio exercise is probably one of the most difficult to achieve for the less mobile as it involves increasing the heart rate to a level that encourages the burning of fat. Finding a method of low impact aerobic activity can greatly improve the health of the wheelchair bound. For exercises like these you want to focus on activities that increase the heart rate using the arms.

Apart from cardio, resistance training to build muscle tone and strength training to encourage the best use of these muscles is vital to the health and well being of anyone in wheelchairs. If manual chairs are the norm, then upper body strength can be important to assist in proper function and movement. Strength and resistance training can be done together and will allow the user of the wheelchair to feel more in control of the apparatus.

These types of exercise are best achieved using small weights and dumbbells for lifting exercises, and can be a great way to stretch and extend the muscle after being used in one position for movement. Higher muscle mass also contributes to a faster metabolism, meaning the wheelchair user can use these exercises also to avoid gaining weight.

Using resistance bands means that the exercise is based on using the person’s body weight as resistance. It requires a lot less equipment and can be completed almost anywhere. It also allows the user to attach the bands to the wheelchair and instead of working around the chair to achieve exercise results; it makes the chair part of it. This can help for those who may feel a bit disconnected from their chair or resentful of its presence.

One great machine if you’re looking for equipment for fitness is an arm based rowing or pedaling machine. This allows circular movements of the arms, to varying levels of resistance and is all completed while seated regardless of who uses it. They can be adapted to allow for wheelchairs and this makes them a great option for all round fitness.

When planning exercises for seniors, it is very important that they are designed specifically for the older body. If you have access to specialized doctors it is worth getting their opinion on the needs and limitations of seniors in general, and then adding in any wheelchair specific considerations.

Exercise for seniors is traditionally gentler and slower so don’t expect to get results as quickly as you would with younger people. It’s also important to encourage proper nutrition to allow for the healthiest body and energy available to expend.