Five Reasons Why Wheelchair Users Should Regularly Exercise

When you use a wheelchair as a means for mobility, physical activity and exercise may be one of those things on your to-do list where you can’t seem to find any time for.

In this guide, there are a few important reasons why you should reconsider your exercise priorities and a few good tips on how you can fit it into your lifestyle.

Reason #1 | Health & Well-being

Maintaining optimal health and well-being is a vital component to improving our quality of life. It is common for wheelchair-users to decrease their physical activity and exercise levels due to a lack of their functional ability.

Active lifestyle is critical for wheelchair-users to prevent injuries, optimize physical and mental wellness, and decrease the risk of development of other secondary illnesses.

30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise 5 x a week is recommended as a minimum as a guide for healthy adults.


A talk test is a great way to assess the intensity. If you can talk but not sing during an activity, it’s a great indicator you are working at a moderate intensity.

“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver” - Mahatma Gandhi

Reason #2 | Shoulder Management

Shoulder complications are very common with wheelchair users. Common activities such as household chores, lifting overhead and even sleeping can aggravate shoulders leading to muscle impingements, rotator cuff tear and general capsule tightness.

Appropriate and adequate management exercises can reduce the occurrence of shoulder pain and other complications by strengthen and stretching muscles surrounding the shoulder joint.

Simple daily stretches and strengthening exercises can prevent the risk of overuse injury and improve the ability to perform activities of daily living.


When stretching, a slight discomfort is recommended, pain from overstretching can cause injuries. If you suspect you have an injury due to overstretching, please seek medical advice.

“Even if you don’t have time for a big workout, stretching in the morning and night really changes your body” - Erin Heatherton

Reason #3 | Prevention of Chronic Illness

There are many chronic diseases associated with living a sedentary lifestyle. The risk of developing cardiovascular or metabolic diseases increase dramatically as we spend more of our day in sitting. This is especially true for wheelchair users. Structured aerobic and strength training incorporating large muscle groups is required to reduce these risk factors.


High intensity interval training is great way to incorporate both strength and aerobic exercises.

“Physical activity - even if you don’t lose an ounce, you’ll live longer, feel healthier and be less likely to get cancer, heart disease, stroke and arthritis. It’s the closest thing we have to a wonder drug” - Tom Frieden

Reason #4 | Functional Ability

Independence is a key factor in maintaining a high quality of life. Strength and aerobic capacity is an indicator of functional independence for wheelchair users. Maintenance of strength and aerobic capacity ensures that wheelchair users are able to perform daily task such as transfers, self-care and mobility. Lack of function ability will result in dependence on carers and family members and reduce social participation.


If you don’t use it, you lose it. Regular exercise will protect your functional ability.

“Independence is happiness” - Susan B. Anthony

Reason #5 | Mental Health

Regular exercise releases endorphins into your body which helps energizes and boost your mood. It also provides you will an overall sense of wellness increasing your self-esteem. There is also a strong correlation between inactivity and the adoption of unhealthy behaviours such as consumption of junk food.


A healthy body leads to a healthy mind.

”The reason I exercise is for the quality of life I enjoy” - Kenneth H. Cooper

If you would like to learn more about exercises for wheelchair users, contact us!