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  • Writer's pictureGabriela Chim



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 seniors in wheelchairs 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 of 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 users. 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 3 STRENGTH TRAINING EXERCISES ARE AN EFFECTIVE WAY TO SUPPORT THE INDEPENDENCE OF SENIORS IN WHEELCHAIRS AND IMPROVE DAILY LIFE.


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 the 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 doorknob. 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.

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