Wheelchair Exercises

What to do when we want to stay in shape but aren’t physically able to enjoy Zumba fitness, or stretch with yoga, or go for a cardio work-out in spin class? Whether we are disabled from SCI (spinal cord injury), spina bifida, CP (cerebral palsy), an illness, disease, or stroke, there are options for retaining flexibility and maintaining as healthy a body as possible.

I believe we are what we eat, so I’m not a proponent of fried or fast foods, soft drinks, or sugar-laden anything. Not that I never indulge in KFC’s chicken livers (maybe once a year), or a Sonic Jr. jalapeño burger with a small order of onion rings (maybe once or twice a year, and I’m overdue), but I know that my body thanks me with excellent health and more than sufficient energy by eating responsibly.

Until you experience the benefits and are sincerely given to healthy choices, it will require discipline and serious denial to the dictatorial cravings. Aren’t you so-o-o encouraged and just can’t wait to be healthy? It’s like when fasting all I think about is FOOD or that recipe I anticipate preparing.

Diet aside, let me mention a few simple warm-up exercises to stretch and encourage blood flow to our masterful muscles and Mensa minds. Make sure you have adjusted to your new body, know its idiosyncrasies, and check with your PT or doctor before enbarking on new techniques.

By far, one of my easiest exercises for stretching Achilles tendons, calves and ham strings is by using the OPTP strap. It is 72”L x 1”W, sewn together at 7” intervals, rendering 10 loops—perfect for any height.

I place my feet on my bed (any furniture wheelchair height will suffice), wrap one loop around the ball of my foot, wrap my wrist through the loop reaching my upper thigh, then pull. After a few stretches, I lean forward over my lap to increase the stretch. Make sure you are balanced so not to fall forward or sideways. This strap is $17.95 and is available at 1-800-367-7393.

I have an unconventional method for stretching my back, but it pop, pop, pops—just right. I back up against an open door, center the door jamb against my spine, and push my wheelchair tires backward as I press my back against the jamb. For a horizontal lying-in-bed position, I simultaneously press the back of my head and my bent elbows against the mattress (no pillow).

For a simple yet ingeniously engineered devise that relieves stress, increases blood flow to the musculoskeletal system, stretches, and realigns vertebrae, I have a True Back.

By their description, it is “…a non-powered orthopedic traction device.” and it is my favorite. (I include a complete chapter in my book, Views From My Chariot: A Wheelchair Oddity, on assistive aides, equipment, and such devices. It weighs 4 pounds and measures 24”L x 10”W x 4”D, at its deepest. Each end has a different angled incline; one is for less traction, and the other is for more.

If you are ambulatory, you can put it on the floor at home or, if you prefer, at the office; I put mine in bed with me.

While sitting up with legs outstretched, I slide one end against my buttock—centered for my spine to rest between its two undulated rails–then, slowly lie back over its length. I place a pillow under my head to protect it from the uncomfortable, hard wood and to lessen the stress on my neck.

There have been slight changes made in its design since I bought mine (They now offer a vibrating version.), but it can be purchased for $69.95 (with a free comfort pillow) at www.trueback.com or call 1-800-630-3372.

Does this help? What works for you?

One thought on “Wheelchair Exercises

  1. Cynthia,

    Please look at “The Wheelchair Gym” http://www.lotechusa.com .

    For wheelchair and power-chair users of all ages, I developed a simple, user-friendly piece of equipment called “The Wheelchair Gym”, I will appreciate any comments you may care to give, if interested please contact me; I’m the well exercised old (83) old man on the website home page.

    It is made in the USA and shipped fully assembled.



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