SCI Community Magazine
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Wheelchair Fitness

Using a wheelchair every day can be physically exhausting with time and, without proper stretching and exercises, there is risk of complications such as diabetes, weight gain, joint pain or cardiovascular disease. That’s why it’s important to maintain a consistent routine, one you can benefit from long term.

Here are some arm exercises that can be done in a wheelchair or any sitting position, as recommended by Sylvia Cooper, a UHN Physiotherapist based out of Toronto Rehab’s Lyndhurst Centre

  1. Shoulder Flexor Strengthening

    Sitting upright in your wheelchair with your elbow and shoulder extended – that is with your arm positioned at the side of your body with your palm of your hand facing forwards, raise your arm up towards your head. Hold for a second or two and then return to the starting position. Ensure that your elbow remains as straight as possible throughout the movement.
    Repeat. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions. To progress this exercise, a free weight can be used.

  2. Shoulder Abductor Strengthening

    Sitting upright in your wheelchair with your elbow and shoulder extended – that is with your arm positioned at the side of your body with your palm of your hand facing upward, raise your arm up sideways towards your head. Hold for a second or two and then return to the starting position. Ensure that your elbow remains as straight as possible throughout the movement.
    Repeat. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions. To progress this exercise, a free weight can be used.

  3. Shoulder Extensor Strengthening

    Sitting upright in your wheelchair with your elbow and shoulder extended – that is with your arm positioned at the side of your body with your palm of your hand facing inwards, raise your arm back behind you. Hold for a second or two and then return to the starting position. Ensure that your elbow remains as straight as possible throughout the movement.
    Repeat. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions. To progress this exercise, a free weight can be used.

  1. Elbow Flexor Strengthening

    Sitting upright in your wheelchair with your elbow and shoulder extended – that is with your arm positioned at the side of your body with the palm of your hand facing forwards, bend your elbow bringing your hand towards your shoulder. Hold for a second or two and then return to the starting position. Ensure that your elbow remains close to your body throughout the movement.
    Repeat. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions. To progress this exercise, a free weight can be used.

  1. Elbow Extensor Strengthening

    Sitting upright in your wheelchair with your elbow over your shoulder and your elbow bent such that your hand is positioned behind you. The palm of your hand can face backwards or sideways. Extend your elbow such that your hand reaches up above your head. Hold for a second or two and then return to the starting position. Ensure that your elbow remains over your shoulder throughout the movement.
    Repeat. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions. To progress this exercise, a free weight can be used.

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Spinal Cord Injury Ontario | Spring 2020

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