Who doesn’t want to live their best life? Well, in order to accomplish that you have to eat well, take care of yourself, get adequate sleep, and exercise regularly. Unfortunately, if you are in a wheelchair it can be somewhat discouraging when it comes to starting an exercise routine. The good news is at Oaks Senior Living, we are here to encourage you every step of the way. The best way to commit to wheelchair exercises is to grab your best friend as a workout partner! If your best friend is not in a wheelchair, or vice versa, the wheelchair can be substituted for sitting in a regular chair. So, grab your best friend and get started!
With any exercise routine even in a wheelchair, the first step is warming up. This can be done with some simple neck and arm stretches. Then, you can move into stretching out your legs. It is good practice to hold onto your pant leg and pull your legs up one at a time, this keeps the blood flowing and gets an increase in oxygen to your feet. If you can prop your leg up on a bed and do some forward stretching to release tension you may have built up in your lower back. Once you have stretched out and warmed up, you can move onto one of the three following exercise categories.
Just because you are confined to a wheelchair, does not mean you are limited from partaking in cardiovascular activities. Cardio is very healthy for your body, especially if you are sitting for most of the day. It can make you sweat, which helps your body dispose of toxins, and it can lead to a stronger, healthier heart. There are also various sports leagues specifically designed for wheelchair users. R.I.S.E. (Recover, Inspire, Succeed, Empower) Adaptive Sports exercise programs, prove that a wheelchair does not have to slow you down. You and your workout partner do not have to join an extreme sports league to get cardio though, you can simply wheel around the community a few times or even try a lighter version of Zumba, and dance in your chair!
It is important for you and your best friend to practice flexibility exercises which can reduce muscle and joint stiffness and pain. Flexibility exercises can also increase your range of motion and help to prevent injuries. Although your mobility may be limited, you can perform these activities with simply stretching or for a more interactive exercise, try chair yoga. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4ST1j9PfrA) There are various chair yoga series on YouTube, so you both can search for which one works best for your workouts.
Strength training is a great way to burn calories and build muscle and bone mass. It is also great at reducing stress and your exercise reaching goals. These exercises can be performed with simple dumbbell weights or a medicine ball to slowly toss back and forth. When using any form of weights, it is always best practice to have a “spotter” or caregiver there to direct proper motions. Resistant bands are also a great alternative to weights and work well in ordinance with wheelchair exercises. These flexible bands can be fastened to your wheelchair for portability and convenience. You can perform chest presses, upper back exercises, and arm exercises for strength training.
Just as important as warming up is the cooling down phase. It is unhealthy for you to get your heart actively pumping and then to suddenly stop working, you need to gradually slow it down. This can be as simple as stretching again or doing cardio at a much slower pace.
There are numerous benefits to you and your best friends working out together regardless of your personal mobility limitations. The benefits of wheelchair exercises are alleviating muscle/joint pains, increasing endurance, preventing injury, improving balancing, enhancing motion range, increasing bone and muscle mass, and reducing stress. When you perform these exercises with your best friend, it encourages you to root each other on and stay committed to living your best life. If you and your best friend need encouragement or structure, visit with your communities’ Wellness Director and they will be happy to help you get started!