Wheelchair Exercises for Wheelchair Users

06 Jan 2023

Being a wheelchair user might limit some of your mobility and stop you from carrying out certain exercises. But that doesn’t mean you can’t keep fit.

If you are a wheelchair user, you know just how much physical activity you have to do to get around; using a manual wheelchair on a daily basis is generally good cardiovascular exercise and a great way to get the heart pumping. However, incorporating some muscle-strengthening exercises into a fitness routine can also give you more strength to help you manage your wheelchair on a day-to-day basis.

There are lots of benefits simple wheelchair exercises can help with. These benefits include:

  • Losing weight
  • Building strength
  • Increase endurance and flexibility
  • Preventing injury
  • Tone muscle

Easy Wheelchair Exercises for Wheelchair Users

If you are looking for some easy seated wheelchair exercises to achieve improved fitness, here are some handy exercises you can try to help build your upper body and lower body strength.

These strength training wheelchair exercises don’t need much equipment or heavy weights, but if you did want to invest in a medicine ball then you will really make the most out of these exercises.

Bicep curl

This is an easy upper-body exercise to help you build your bicep muscles. Upper body strength training is an important part of your fitness routine as it will help you with your overall wheelchair usage.

You don’t need any specific weights for this exercise, two bags of sugar would do!

  • Sit up straight, hold a weight in each hand with your palms facing up, and your forearms parallel with your legs.
  • Slowly lift one arm at the elbow, so your hand nearly touches your shoulder.
  • Slowly bring your arm back down and repeat using the other arm.
  • Do this 10–15 times on each arm.

Shoulder press

This is another exercise you will need a lightweight for. Building on shoulder muscles can help to prevent muscle strains or injuries when you are using your wheelchair.

  • Hold your chosen weight with both hands at your chest.
  • Keep your arms straight and raise the weight above your head.
  • Bend at the elbows and bring the weight slowly back to your chest.

Tricep dip

This is a great exercise to build up your triceps, and it uses your own body weight, so you don’t need any extra equipment at all.

  • Place your hands on the armrests of your wheelchair.
  • Slowly push yourself up out of your chair so you have straight arms.
  • Hold here for a moment before slowly lowering yourself back down into your chair.
  • Repeat this movement 10 times, or as many as you are comfortable with!

Chest Fly

This is a nice and easy exercise to help you build on your chest muscles and shoulder muscles. Keeping your chest and shoulder muscles

  • Hold a weight in each hand and straighten your arms out in front of you.
  • Keeping your arms straight, bring the weights back so your arms are in line with your body.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades and return to the starting position.
  • Repeat this movement 10–12 times.

Side Twists

This is a simple exercise to help you strengthen your core. This is also a great exercise to do if you are recovering from an upper-body injury.

  • Sit up straight and twist your body to the left (or right).
  • Hold for a few seconds, keeping your core engaged, then repeat on the opposite side.
  • Repeat this movement 10 – 15 times.

Leg exercises and stretches for wheelchair users

If you are able, incorporating some leg exercises and stretches = into your fitness program is a great way to keep your legs healthy and strong. Here are a couple for you to consider:

Knee lifts

Moving your legs can help with blood flow, this wheelchair exercise is an easy exercise to do when seated:

  • Start the exercise with both feet on the ground when seated, or on your wheelchair footrests
  • Lift your knee as high as you comfortably can and slowly lower.
  • Repeat this with the other leg.
  • If you feel comfortable, you can increase the speed of the exercise to increase the intensity.

Seated hamstring stretch

Stretching your hamstrings can really help to reduce tension in your lower back and hips. Here is a nice and easy stretch you can do from your wheelchair:

  • Sit upright with your legs extended.
  • Gently lean forward at your hips.
  • Hold for 15–30 seconds.
  • Remember not to force the stretch; go as far as is comfortable.

Seated hip flexor stretch

Your hip flexors can easily tighten up and shorten, this hip flexor exercise can help stretch them out and loosen them up.

  • Sit up straight and cross one ankle over the opposite knee.
  • Gently press down on the raised knee until you feel a stretch in your hip.
  • Hold for 15–30 seconds.
  • Repeat on the other side.

wheelchair user on track

Wheelchair Sports

Playing sports is another great exercise and a fun way to stay in shape. There are plenty of wheelchair sports for a range of levels. Check out our handy wheelchair sports blog for more information.

Wheelchair-Friendly Fitness Accessories

You can enhance your workouts and make them more effective by investing in wheelchair-specific fitness accessories. Here are a few must-haves:

Resistance bands: You can use resistance bands for strength training to add resistance to your exercises. Perfect for arm and leg exercises.

Weighted Gloves: Slip on some weighted gloves for an easy way to make your upper body exercises a little more challenging.

Head to the gym: If you’re up for it, most gyms have wheelchair-friendly equipment such as hand cycles and upper-body ergometers. If you have a gym near you, give them a call to see what equipment they have.

Stay consistent

The key to exercise is keeping at it. If you regularly keep up with these exercises, you will definitely feel the benefits. But don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day or two, just pick up where you left off whenever you feel ready and keep going! You’ve got this!


These are just a few easy wheelchair exercises that you can do at home or if you have a spare moment when you are out and about. There are many programs and gyms offering specialist equipment and training specifically designed for wheelchair users if you want to push yourself even further!

Blue Badge Wheelchair Insurance

If you have a manual or electric wheelchair and are looking for insurance, Blue Badge Mobility Insurance can help you out. Having insurance offers peace of mind in case you have any issues with your wheelchair.

Getting a quote for your electric or manual wheelchair has never been easier. Simply fill in the online form, and we’ll get back to you with your own personal quote. Get in touch today and let’s give you that peace of mind for when you’re out and about or keeping fit!

Please Note: This blog is for informational purposes and the exercises should be used at your own discretion. If you have any concerns about attempting any of these exercises, Blue Badge Mobility Insurance advise you to contact your GP first.

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