How to lose weight in a wheelchair

Adults who use wheelchairs can find it harder to lose weight, because they tend to use fewer calories through physical activity. But if you’re a wheelchair user and you are overweight, there are still changes you can make to achieve a healthy weight.

Many of us eat more calories than we need, and don’t do enough physical activity. Over time, this leads to weight gain. That’s why around two-thirds of adults in England are overweight or obese.

If you’re a wheelchair user, you’re at particular risk of weight gain, partly because wheelchair users tend not to use the large muscles in their legs, and so use less energy in day-to-day life.

Being overweight or obese puts you at higher risk of a range of serious health conditions, including type 2 diabetes , heart disease and certain cancers .

Checking your weight

Body mass index (BMI) is commonly used as a measure of whether someone is a healthy weight for their height.

However, it’s sometimes not enough to use BMI to check the weight of someone with a disability, as this may not give the full picture. For example, you may have a health condition that can affect your weight or height.

If you are uncertain about your weight, talk to your doctor. They will be able to provide advice on whether BMI is a suitable measure for you, and whether you are currently a healthy weight.

Your doctor can also help if you are not able to weigh yourself.

Why you are overweight

Helen Bond is a dietitian with experience of working with wheelchair users.

She says that wheelchair users can find it difficult to gauge how many calories they need to eat. This means they can eat more than they need, resulting in weight gain.

“Wheelchair users are in a very different situation from other adults when it comes to how many calories they need,” she says. “This can be hard to adapt to.

“If you are new to using a wheelchair, you might eat as you did before, but you are using less energy through physical activity, and so you begin to put on weight. If you live with other adults who need more calories than you, you may eat as much as them, and again this will result in weight gain.

“Wheelchair users can also lose muscle in their legs over time. When we have less muscle, we need fewer calories to maintain our bodyweight.”

Losing weight in a wheelchair

The key to losing weight the healthy way is to adjust your diet and level of physical activity.

To lose weight, you need to regularly use more energy than you consume through food and drink. You can do this by a combination of eating fewer calories and being more active. However, if your ability to move around is severely restricted by your condition, then dieting will be the main way that you can lose weight.

Aim to lose between 1lb (0.5kg) and 2lb (1kg) a week until you reach your target weight. A healthy, balanced diet and regular physical activity will help you to maintain a healthy weight in the long term.

Ask your doctor if there is a community weight management service available near you. The service aims to help people:

  • lose weight and keep it off
  • limit further weight gain
  • get into a regular eating pattern
  • achieve a balanced diet
  • become more physically active
  • reduce overeating and portion sizes
  • learn new long-term lifestyle skills

Anyone who wants to use the service, which welcomes wheelchair users, is screened by a qualified weight management adviser to determine their suitability for the service and their programme preference. For some people, a one-to-one programme may be available.

Change your diet

The average man needs around 2,500 calories a day to maintain his bodyweight. The average woman needs around 2,000 calories a day.

If you are a wheelchair user, it’s likely you’ll need less than these guideline amounts.

A doctor or dietitian can help you to work out your daily calorie needs.

Counting calories? Check out our handy guide to What 100 calories looks like. You might be surprised at the differences between certain food groups.

While adjusting your diet so that you eat fewer calories, it’s important to ensure that you eat healthily and get all the nutrition you need.

“A balanced diet for wheelchair users is the same as it is for other adults,” says Helen Bond. “You just need to adjust the amount of calories you eat, to take into account the fact that you are likely to be moving around less.”

A healthy balanced diet means eating:

  • plenty of fruit and vegetables – aim to eat at least five varied portions of fruit and veg every day
  • plenty of starchy foods, such as brown bread, wholegrain pasta and potatoes
  • some milk and dairy foods
  • some meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein

Try to consume just a small amount of foods and drinks that are high in fat or sugar. You can learn more by reading Eight tips for healthy eating.

You can get tips on managing the amount of salt, fat and sugar in your family’s diet from Change4Life’s Be Food Smart campaign.

Get active

Becoming more active is important to maintain a healthy weight. This will help you to use more calories regularly than you consume in food and drink, and this will lead to better fitness and help weight loss.

Being a wheelchair user doesn’t have to mean leading an inactive lifestyle.

If you can, aim to do regular cardiovascular activity, as well as regular muscle-strengthening exercise. Cardiovascular physical activity is particularly important when it comes to losing weight. This is activity that raises your heart rate, gets you slightly out of breath and causes you to break a sweat.

This doesn’t have to mean sport, or time at the gym. You could start by making short journeys by pushing yourself in your wheelchair, instead of taking the car or public transport.

If the gym does appeal, though, there is a range of good options for wheelchair users. These can include rowing machines adapted for wheelchair use, and weight machines for resistance exercises.

Other options include swimming, if you can, or wheelchair sports such as basketball, netball, badminton and boccia, the wheelchair sport featured in the London 2012 Paralympics. Boccia is similar to bowls, in which leather balls are rolled towards a target. It can be a particularly good option for those whose mobility is severely restricted, such as people with quadriplegia. Although it may not help with weight loss, simply participating can have a very positive effect on a person’s overall wellbeing.

WheelPower is an organisation that helps wheelchair users get involved in sport. Learn more at WheelPower: our sports associations.

For more information and activity ideas, read Fitness advice for wheelchair users.

Weight Loss While In A Wheelchair

Many of us face the challenge of eating more calories than we need, and the worse part is that we tend not to exercise after doing so. When you do this consecutively you begin to develop weight gain, and down the line, obesity.

Over 70 million people in the Unites States are currently dealing with overweight problems, and knocking on the door, is obesity. About 66 million adults are technically obese, which is an alarming number that continues to climb every year.

Risks Of Weight Gain On A Wheelchair

If you are someone who is on a wheelchair for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis, then you are at a risk of developing weight gain. This is sometimes true because people who use wheelchairs are less likely to use their larger leg muscles and so the outcome is less energy used.

Fewer Calories Through Physical Activity

In order to prevent obesity from developing in a person, a good diet is key, but consistent exercise is also important when it comes to avoiding obesity on a wheelchair. Being obese or even overweight can put you at a higher risk of many types of illnesses, including heart disease and certain types of cancers.

To check your current status in the “how fat am I” competition, you can use Body Mass Index to measure whether a person is at a nominal weight for their stature. To be able to sustain a loss of weight you should create a routine that fits your daily life, finding time in the day so you can exercise on a daily basis. Another way of creating weight loss is to achieve a balanced diet so that you may plan for a long-term weight loss strategy.

Having A Good Diet While Wheelchair-bound

Overeating can also be an issue when trying to keep a healthy diet; you should try to reduce portion sizes of your meals to prevent overeating. You can always learn how to lose weight on a wheelchair but it is far more important to be responsible after learning how to lose weight.

Responsible meaning that you do not just do it for a week at a time, but you must find the responsibility to have consistency and longevity, if there is a balance of food and exercise that works for you, stick with it until you need to change the strategy.

Risk Of Weight Gain In A Wheelchair

Weight loss is hard enough when you don’t use a wheelchair, but when you add a wheelchair to the equation; it means fewer opportunities to lose weight and to use energy to burn calories. Even so, it is very important for wheelchair users to manage their diet and exercise to prevent weight gain.

Wheelchair users can prevent weight gain by doing cardio exercises catered towards their illness or disability. Strength training exercise can also be used to promote good health, this would involve using weights or some other type of resistance device to build bone mass and muscle.

Strength exercises can also help you improve your balance; this would help a wheelchair user during a transfer or to avoid obstacles without falling off the chair.

Sports Tailored for Wheelchair Users

Another way you can attempt to lose weight and to stay as fit as possible, is to play sports. Such sports as wheelchair basketball, netball, or extreme wheelchair sports can be the answer to your obesity and weight gain problems.

Probably the most obvious way to stay in shape on a wheelchair is to propel or push yourself everywhere you go (when possible). This option would depend on your current condition, if you cannot propel yourself, other options are out there to help you stay in shape and to avoid health problems such as heart disease.

Find Lightweight Wheelchairs

Formula for Weight Loss: How Many Calories Should Wheelchair Users Eat?

Physical Therapist, Kristin McNealus provides a weight loss formula to help wheelchair users live a healthier lifestyle. She suggests keeping progress notes in a journal

3500 calories = 1 pound. Therefore, Kristin points out that if an individual wants to lose one pound per week they have to eat 500 calories a day. She says this can be done by eating less or exercising more.

However, there is ongoing research on how many calories a person with a spinal cord injury needs throughout the day. The research is based on the following factors:

  • A person’s activity level.
  • A person’s injury level.
  • A person’s gender. (Kristen recommends that men start out with eating 1800 calories per day and women eating 1500 calories per day.)

Kristin states that for wheelchair users maintaining a healthy weight can decrease the risk of common complications such as certain types of cancers, urinary tract infections, respiratory infections and pressure ulcers.

Before starting any diet plan or exercise regimen please consult a physician.

It’s not easy losing weight without walking. Your legs comprise over 50% of your body’s muscles. When you don’t move them, you’re burning a lot less calories. A lot. In fact for some of us who use wheelchairs full-time, it’s almost impossible to lose weight. Or at least we think so.

The truth is that it’s totally possible to lose weight if you’re a wheelchair-user. I’ve seen it is my own two eyes having witnessed dozens of wheelchair-users around the world who’ve lost weight, changing their lives (and life-spans) for the better. If you’re currently struggling with weight loss, here are some awesomely effective ways to lose weight without standing up.

CrossFit CrossFit is a huge fitness craze right now and it’s based on military exercises; truly sweat exerting exercises such as climbing a wooden wall (with a rope no less) and jumping over, lifting a huge tire over your head, jumping rope, basic moves such as pull-ups and squats, shoulder presses, rope climbs, runs with weights and a whole lot more. Is it easy? Heck no, and that’s why it’s perfect for wheelchair-users.

And yes doing CrossFit while you’re sitting down is totally possible, as Chris Stoutenberg, a paraplegic from Ontario, Canada completely proves. He has a whole Youtube channel profiling his adventures in wheelchair CrossFit, and holy heck is he in amazing shape. He is a living proof CrossFit is an amazing work out for wheelchair-users. What it does is burn an insanely high amount of calories in a short amount of time; if you can take the heat that is. Check out Chris’s videos

Low-Cal Diet You’ve heard this for years, low calorie is the only way to go to seriously lose weight, and it’s absolutely true. But the problem is that it’s one of the hardest ways to lose weight. Eating low calorie means no heavy dressings, melty cheeses, no more copious amounts of bread; it’s a restrictive lifestyle. However I found this weight loss method to be not that torturous if you just take the time to figure out low-cal foods that you actually like.

I absolutely love spicy foods and acidic vinegrettes. I will put this on my vegetables so they taste better, and then I will roast my meats; one of my favorite and healthy ways to eat meat. The truth about this diet is that you can lay in a bed and not move a muscle and this weight loss method will work simply because at the end of day it’s all about math. If you lower the amount of calories you eat, you will lose weight.

Zumba This dance-inspired workout is definitely a fitness craze for the ladies, but the guys can get in on the fun too. It’s like aerobics, but with Latin attitude, and it’s all about moving what you got; or in the case of someone with a disability, still moving what you got. You may not be moving your legs as part of the Zumba moves, but if you can get your upper-body into it you can still lose a lot of weight moving your upper body around like a crazy person to high-tempo Latin beats. Plus, it’s super fun.

And don’t forget, adding yoga as a secondary physical activity can be one of the best ways to help your body lose weight. Stretching, aligning your joints and muscles, breathing correctly, all of this can help your body buzz with good energy.

Use a wheelchair? How have you lost weight?

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Weight gain is generally due to consuming more calories than needed throughout the day. Wheelchair users can find it difficult to lose weight because fewer calories are used through physical activity. Just because it’s more challenging for wheelchair users to lose weight, it doesn’t mean you should give up hope. There are several things you can do to lose weight in a wheelchair and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Discuss Your Weight with Your Doctor

Before you begin taking steps to lose weight, speak to your doctor. Discuss your body mass index and your weight loss goals. Your doctor’s approval is essential to your journey of losing weight. At times, some patients tend to lose more than necessary, so always be sure your weight loss goals are safe, healthy and realistic for your body type.

Eat Fewer Calories

This sounds easier said than done. But it is possible with will-power and determination. Remove high calorie foods such as sweets and processed foods from your diet. After removing the high-calorie foods, fill the empty spaces in your refrigerator and pantry with healthier options. Consider adding fresh fruits and vegetables along with poultry and other lean meats. Replace your high calorie snacks with yogurt, granola bars, nuts, vegetable dips, and other tasty and healthy treats. You don’t want to deprive yourself, you just want to eliminate high-calorie foods and enjoy a balanced diet. Eating a healthy balanced diet includes the following:

  • Enjoying starchy foods such as wholegrain pasta, brown bread, oats and potatoes
  • Eating five fruit and vegetable servings per day
  • Consuming organic dairy foods such as low fat milk and yogurt
  • Consuming protein such as eggs, beans, fish, poultry, meats and other non-dairy sources of protein

Below are some of the foods to avoid that promotes weight gains:

  • Potato chips
  • White bread
  • Processed deli meats
  • French fries
  • Mayonnaise
  • Butter
  • Ice cream
  • Cakes and candy
  • Fried foods
  • Fast food

Portion Control

Currently the size of dishware is large, big and huge. If you were to compare the size of a standard dinner plate from the 1980’s to the size of one today, you will find that it has almost doubled or tripled in size. While the large dishes are beautiful, they also encourage you to fill it to the rim, causing huge portion sizes. This leads to high calorie intake. You can still enjoy your beautiful large plate, but just fill it half way. Another trick is to use the sandwich plate from your dining set. This is a more suitable portion size. If you still feel hungry after your meal, drink a full glass of water and wait 20 minted to see if you are still hungry. Research shows, that your brain and stomach register feelings of fullness after about 20 minutes.

Eat Frequently

Eating frequently may not sound like good advice when you are trying to lose weight, but it actually speeds up your metabolism. Eating a meal or snack in small serving sizes every two or three hours throughout the day will keep you full, help balance your sugar level and prevent you from binge eating. You will also find that you are not so eager to consume junk food since you are pleasantly full and not always looking for a quick fix to ward off hunger pains.

Get Active

People with mobility issues may have a difficult time being active. Discuss with your doctor what type of exercise, sport or movements you are capable of doing without causing harm to yourself. Always follow your doctor’s advice and never exceed your limitations. Once you have approval enjoy discovering all of the activities that will keep you active. Ideas include gym equipment that has been adapted for wheelchair users, swimming, netball, basketball, badminton and stretching exercises. There are also a line of fitness DVDs that are specially created for wheelchair exercises.

Drink Plenty of Water

Trade in sugary juice and soda for water. Sweetened juices and soda contain a lot of calories and rarely make you feel full. Water keeps you hydrated and keeps you feeling full. If plain water doesn’t sound appetizing to you, try adding a slice of lemon for added taste. You can also try adding other fruits such as orange, strawberries, peaches, etc… to your water to help enhance the flavor. Carry a bottle of water with you at all times to keep you hydrated and flush toxins out of your system.

Involve Your Family

If you are eating a high calorie diet, chances are those you live with are too. Alert your family and friends that you are beginning a new healthy lifestyle that will help you reach and maintain your weight and fitness goals. Create healthy grilled dishes and snacks together, encourage each other and get active. When everyone around you is living a healthy lifestyle, it is easier for you to maintain yours as well.

Always speak to your primary physician first before making any changes or additions to your diet or physical fitness activities. Everyone is different and has their own limitations. Don’t think you are stuck with the weight that you have just because you are in a wheelchair. Adapt to a healthy diet, eat small serving sizes, drink plenty of water, stay active, motivated and most importantly – keep a positive outlook on life. Soon you will see the pounds melt away and reveal a happier, healthier you.


Increase whole-body strength with these eight seated exercises

Usually, when we think about exercise, we think about activities that involve standing, walking, and moving around. For seniors constricted to a wheelchair, these types of activities are, of course, impossible. Yet, regular exercise is just as important for wheelchair bound seniors who want to lead an active, healthy, happy life as it is for seniors who do not require the use of a wheelchair.

For many older adults, a loss in autonomy and independence can contribute to feelings of depression and loneliness. Not being able to engage in normal day-to-day activities like lifting basic household items, moving freely from room to room, or from inside to outside, without assistance is frustrating and can lead to a sense of despair that puts them at risk for further illness and injury.

But, strength training can make daily life much easier for wheelchair bound seniors. When you’re strong, simply moving through the day goes from a challenge to a pleasure – a reminder of improved fitness and health, that continues to motivate training.

These 8 strength training exercises are an effective way to support the independence of wheelchair bound seniors and improve daily life.

A complete circuit of the following 8 exercises will build strength in the arms, chest, core, and legs, providing a simple whole-body strength training workout for wheelchair bound seniors. During the workout, seniors should take care to sit tall, engaging their abs to maintain good posture and support the muscles of the back.

Beginners should start with a small amount of reps and skip the exercises that require weight or resistance. As muscle strength improves, increase the number of reps and add weight or resistance.

For maximum effectiveness, perform strength training exercises 2-3 non-consecutive days a week, taking at least 1 day to rest in between workouts.

Exercises that strengthen the muscles in the arms and chest

1. Shoulder Retractions for Beginners

Sit up straight and contract the ab muscles to support back muscles. Hold your arms at a 90-degree angle at shoulder level, hands facing down, fingers curved as if griping bicycle handles. Push both arms straight out in front of you, extending as far as possible without locking the joints. Bend the elbows and pull your arms back until your elbows are just slightly behind your torso, squeezing the shoulder blades together you do, and then repeat the motion.

To increase intensity, hold a light resistance band with both hands. Extend arms parallel to the floor and pull the band apart, squeezing the Rhomboid muscles.

Alternatively, attach a resistance band to a wall or door knob. Hold the band with arms extended and pull towards your body, bending the elbows slightly behind your torso.

2. Chest Squeeze with, or without, a medicine ball

Sitting up straight, with abs engaged to support the muscles in the back, hold a medicine ball, rubber ball, or balloon at chest level, squeezing the ball between your hands to contract the chest muscles. Slowly push the ball forward until your elbows are nearly straight, continuing to squeeze the ball through the whole movement. Slowly pull the ball back to the chest and repeat.

For beginners, this exercise can be accomplished without the medicine ball simply by pressing the palms together.

3. Chest Press with resistance band

Wrap a resistance band around the back of your wheelchair, or simply wrap it around your back just below your shoulder blades. Sitting tall and with your abs engaged, grasp each end of the resistant band in your hands and hold your arms at a 90-degree angle at shoulder level with the palms facing down. Extend your arms straight out in front of your body as far as you can go without locking the joints. Hold the stretch for 2 seconds and then bring the arms back to start.

Be sure to keep the move slow and controlled with the arms held close to your sides during each repetition.

Seated wheelchair exercises that strengthen the leg muscles

1. Toe Taps

Sit up straight with abs engaged and feet flat on the ground. Tilt your toes up towards the ceiling and then back down to the floor. Repeat several times.

To increase the level of difficulty, raise one leg in the air so that it’s straight out in front of you, keeping the other foot flat on the floor. Tilt toes up and down several times. Lower the foot back down to the floor and repeat with the other leg.

2. Knee lifts

Sit up straight with abs engaged and feet flat on the ground. Slowly lift your right leg, bending your knee in a marching motion. Lift your leg as high as you can comfortably go, then lower your foot back to the floor and repeat with the other leg. Continue to repeat this motion, alternating legs.

For increased intensity, pause for 2-10 seconds at the top of the movement.

Seated wheelchair exercises that strengthen the muscles of the core and abs

1. Tummy Twist

Sit up straight with abs engaged and feet flat on the ground. Hold both arms at a 90-degree angle, with forearms extended in front of you and elbows at your sides. Rotate your upper torso to the left, twisting at the waist, for as far as you can comfortably go. Twist back to center and repeat the motion to the right.

During the movement, imagine sucking in your belly button towards your spine, and keep your lower body completely still.

2. Captain’s Chair

Sit up straight and grab the front edge of your seat with both hands. Slowly lift both of your feet off the floor, bending your knees towards your chest as you do, lifting as high as you comfortably can. Squeeze your abs at the top of the movement, and lower both feet back to the floor.

Be careful to not raise your legs past a comfortable position. If you are only able to raise your feet a few inches off the floor to start, that’s fine.

3. The Side Bend Stretch

Sit up tall, with abdominal muscles contracted and hips facing squarely forward. Extend your left arm toward the ceiling, keeping the inside of your upper arm very close to your ear. Hold your left arm in that position, and slowly bend your entire upper body to the right, making a “C” shape with your spine.

To increase the intensity, reach your right arm towards the floor. Hold the stretch for 5-15 seconds. Slowly move back to center and repeat on the other side.

The Daily Exercise Routine for Wheelchair Users

As the population continues to age, the number of adults with decreased mobility gets greater every year.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 1.5 million people in the United States use a manual wheelchair. This proportion increases with age; over 864,000 wheelchair users are over the age of 65. The reason for wheelchair use can be a sudden event like a spinal cord injury, stroke, or amputation, or the result of a progressive disease like multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or osteoarthritis.

Due to the increased work demand of the shoulders and arms, wheelchair users often have shoulder pain and dysfunction. Upper body resistance exercises are an excellent way to build strength and improve movements. When used in combination with other treatments, strengthening exercises can decrease pain and improve the quality of life of wheelchair users.

A review in Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation reports that for people who use a manual wheelchair, exercise programs should include training of the larger muscles of the trunk as well as stretching for the shoulders and chest.

Most wheelchair users consistently use their upper body, particularly the triceps and the shoulders, for movement, which puts extra strain on the joints and muscles. In order to prevent injury, it’s important to avoid imbalances by strengthening the muscles of the back and stretching the muscles of the chest.

Some wheelchair users may have difficulty grasping onto handles, so modifications like the use of loops may be needed. The use of postural devices like a chest strap may be required to maintain balance.

Try these daily exercises to improve your strength, range of motion, and endurance if you use a wheelchair.

Shoulder Openers

This activity provides a great stretch to the shoulder and chest muscles. It helps maintain mobility in the shoulders and upper extremities leading to decreased injuries and pain.

Equipment needed: broomstick or dowel

Muscles worked: rotator cuff muscles, pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, deltoids

  1. Remove armrests from the wheelchair if possible.
  2. Sit comfortably and hold a broomstick in your hands in a wide grip, about 6 inches wider than your shoulders.
  3. Raise the dowel up above your head, keeping your arms straight.
  4. Adjust your grip if necessary and continue behind your head until you feel a stretch.
  5. Hold for 5 seconds, return to starting position, and complete 10 reps.
  6. Repeat once a day.

Lat Pull Downs

This exercise strengthens the muscles of the mid back, upper arms, and core. The latissimus dorsi, the large muscles that run along the side of the back, are responsible for many of the movements we do everyday like pulling and pushing.

Equipment needed: resistance band with handles, anchor point (bar or hook 3 to 4 feet above head)

Muscles worked: latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, trapezius

  1. Remove armrests from wheelchair if possible.
  2. Sit underneath and slightly in front of the resistance band, hanging from the bar.
  3. Sit up tall and engage your core by pulling your bellybutton toward your spine.
  4. Holding the handles in each hand, pull your hands toward you, keeping elbows wide.
  5. At the end of the movement, bring your elbows towards your body as if you are trying to tuck them into your back pockets. Squeeze your back muscles for a second, then return to starting position.
  6. Complete 15 reps. Rest 1 minute. Complete 3 sets.
  7. Repeat once a day.


You can also perform this exercise on a cable machine at the gym. There are many variations of lat pull downs such as a wide grip pull down, narrow grip pull down, and reverse grip pull down. All of them work slightly different areas of the back.

Reverse Fly

The rear deltoid muscles run along the back of the shoulder and are necessary for shoulder stability and movement during pulling and lifting activities.

Equipment needed: resistance band

Muscles worked: posterior deltoids, rhomboids, trapezius

  1. Loop a resistance band around a pole or sturdy object in front of you at shoulder level.
  2. Hold the band securely in each hand and raise your arms out in front of you to shoulder level.
  3. Move your arms straight out to the side, focusing on sitting up tall and keeping your shoulders down and back. Squeeze the area between your shoulder blades on the end of the movement.
  4. Adjust length of the band to increase or decrease tension if necessary.
  5. Complete 15 repetitions. Rest 1 minute. Repeat 3 times.
  6. Repeat once a day.

You can also perform this exercise on a cable machine at the gym. Have someone assist you with setup and use wrist loops if necessary. Keep your core tight and don’t sacrifice form for increased weight or repetitions.

Hand Cycling

This exercise is not only great for the arms and shoulders, but as a cardiovascular exercise which benefits heart health and overall well-being.

Equipment needed: hand ergometer (hand bicycle)

Muscles worked: rotator cuff muscles, deltoids, rhomboids, latissimus dorsi, pectoralis major and minor

  1. Position yourself in front of the hand cycle at a comfortable distance.
  2. Set tension on cycle, start off easy, and increase tension as you get stronger.
  3. Move the pedals in a forward motion with your hands.
  4. Continue for 5 to 30 minutes.
  5. Pause activity if you are feeling any pain or become out of breath.
  6. Repeat once a day.


Always consult your doctor beginning an exercise program.

If these activities cause severe pain or discomfort, stop immediately and seek help. It’s always best to exercise with supervision and ask if help if needed. People with heart problems, muscle injuries, dizziness, vertigo, or high blood pressure should discuss exercise with their healthcare professional before engaging in resistance or cardiovascular exercise program.


Maintaining upper body strength and cardiovascular fitness is important for all people, including wheelchair users. By following a program that incorporates stretching, strengthening, and endurance exercises, you will be better able to complete daily tasks and prevent future decline.


Many fitness programs recommend eating a certain amount of steak as part of their dietary guidelines. For those exercise enthusiasts who find the cost of steak too high for their household budget, replace steak with chicken without sacrificing any nutritional benefits. Other tips that will help you achieve success in your training program:

  • Stretching: Before starting any workout program make sure you stretch for five to ten minutes first to warm up your muscles and avoid cramps.
  • Warm-up: Whatever your first exercise is, first complete two warm-up sets using only half of the weight you will use during the rest of the exercise. This is beneficial because a warm muscle contracts harder than a cold muscle.
  • Push Yourself: You are using too light a weight if completing the reps is easy. You are using too heavy a weight if you are struggling to complete the reps. The idea is to focus your lift in the muscle and feel each rep. Adjust the weight until the reps are not easy but not so hard you cannot complete them. This will take time, but focusing on the muscle will make the adjusting faster.
  • Rest: Your goal when working out is targeting the muscles, not get a cardio workout. Rest the muscles for 60 to 90 seconds between each set. Let the diet and cardio program get you ripped, and let the weight training build a better physique.
  • Resistance: There are three ways to make your workout more intense – add more weight, push the weight quicker and reduce the rest time between sets.
  • Music: Listen to music that has a faster beat. It will put you in a different mood and you will work harder.
  • Food: Make sure you weigh your food – DO NOT GUESS at amounts.
  • Day 7: REST – Do not workout. Let your body heal so you can train hard the next day.

The key is to stick with it and push yourself to the extent of your abilities. Do not cheat on your meals or skip meals. Working out can tear down your body, but it is the diet and rest that help you recover and prepare for the next level.


Set an ultimate goal, the reason “WHY” you work out every day. This is your long-term goal, now you need to set short-term goals. Short-term goals keep you going on days you do not feel like working out. When they are not enough, examine your mindset and re-examine your goals. If your goals have not changed, look inside and wake the Beast inside you. Because tomorrow is too late to do today’s work. Do you remember the photo-shoot that is coming up? You will not be at your best if you skip workouts.

For Wheelchair Users

If you are in a wheelchair and cannot perform a certain exercise, replace it with another exercise using the same muscle group. If you can perform certain leg exercises, do what you can; if you cannot do any leg exercises, simply focus on the other muscle group for that day.

For Cardio

The Speed Bag by The Burn Machine is highly recommended. This handheld machine helps improve your cardiovascular and muscular endurance with a complete conditioning and strengthening workout.

Workouts for people in wheelchairs

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