Keeping up an Active Lifestyle: 8 Seated Exercises for Wheelchair Bound Senior Citizens

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Feb 28, 2019

Feb 28, 2019 • by Rebecca Smith

40 percent of senior citizens 65 or older are living with a disability. These physical disabilities sometimes bind senior citizens to wheelchairs and they might feel like they have to stick to a routine. 

If you're in a wheelchair, you don't have to sacrifice all of your mobility and independence. In this article, we'll go through 8 seated exercises you can perform even when you're in a wheelchair.

1. Wrists and Ankle Rolls

This exercise might seem simple, but the truth is most senior citizens don't get enough circulation to their extremities. Exercising these extremities will help with overall mobility and circulation long-term.

Before starting this exercise, it's important to keep the back straight while not leaning on the chair.

To start this exercise, you should flex your fingers and open and close into a fist. Once you have a fist, roll your wrists about 10 times in each direction.

Do the same with your foot. Keep your feet bare and open and flex your toes. Then, you can begin rolling your feet in each direction about 10 times.

Repeat the whole exercise for up to 3 sets. 

2. Seated Torso Twists 

Since senior citizens who are on a wheelchair don't use their core as much, this exercise can help strengthen their core, obliques, and even improve spinal mobility. 

To begin this exercise, sit tall with both feet flat on the ground a comfortable distance apart. While maintaining a straight back, place both hands behind the head as you keep your elbows bent. 

Before you start the movement, you should ensure your pelvis is steady. As you exhale, twist your torso to one side only as far as it feels comfortable. It's important you don't overextend yourself to prevent an injury.

Inhale to bring your torso back to the center. After you return to the center, you can twist your torso to the other side. 

Perform this exercise up to eight times for a total of 2 sets. 

3. Chest Press 

To perform this exercise, it's necessary to get a wide resistance band. You can either wrap the resistance band behind the wheelchair or place it over your back around your shoulder blades. 

Make sure you sit tall with your back straight at all times and your core engaged. Start by holding the ends of the resistance band while holding your arms at a 90-degree angle at shoulder height. 

Then extend your arms out as far as you can while avoiding locking the joints. Once you're fully stretched, hold the stretch for about two seconds before returning to the original position. 

Repeat this exercise 10 times for a total of 3 sets. 

4. Toe Tapping 

To perform these toe taps, you should sit up straight with your feet flat on the ground. At the same time, you can tilt your toes towards the ceiling and then bring them down.  

Repeat this movement for about 10 repetitions. 

Once you're comfortable with this movement, you can add a bit of a challenge. Instead of tapping both feet at the same time, raise one leg in front of you. While keeping one leg up, tap with the other foot. 

The extra challenge will build more strength.

5. Seated Shoulder Press

Not only does this exercise help build strength in the arms and shoulders, but it also helps develop a full range of motion in the shoulders. With the help of these shoulder press exercises, they will be able to maintain maximum flexibility in the shoulders. 

This exercise can be done using anything from water bottles, resistance bands, canned goods, or dumbbells. Pretty much any items that can create a manageable resistance can be used for this exercise. 

To start, the person must sit straight up with their feet flat on the floor about shoulder with apart. 

They can hold a dumbbell (or water bottle) in each hand. While keeping the dumbbell at shoulder height with elbows bent and palms facing away, press the arms overhead until the elbows are straight. 

Bring the arms back to shoulder height slowly while keeping the resistance. 

This exercise should be performed for 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions. 

6. Single-Leg Calf Raises

Performing calf raises is important for those senior citizens who need to strengthen their lower leg muscles.

While performing this exercise, you must keep both feet flat on the ground and about hip distance apart. Make sure to sit tall so you keep your core engaged at all times.

You will need to do this exercise one leg at a time. Start by lifting your heel off the ground as far as it feels comfortable. When your toes reach the top, return your foot back to the ground with control. 

After you complete one leg, you can do the other one. This exercise should be performed about 10 times per leg for up to 3 sets. 

7. Stomach Twists 

Keeping a strong core is necessary for senior citizens who are bound to a wheelchair. 

To perform this exercise, you need to keep your abs engaged the entire time. Keep your back straight, your feet flat on the ground, as you extend your arms at a 90-degree angle on each side of your body. 

After you're in the right position, you can start rotating your torso to one side. Go as fast as you feel comfortable, and then return to the position. Then twist to the other side. 

Repeat this movement for 10 repetitions for a total of 3 sets. 

8. Arm Stretches 

Keeping the arms strong is essential for senior citizens who are in a wheelchair. To perform this exercise, you have to extend your arms in front of you. 

Make sure to sit up straight, interlace your fingertips, and stretch your arms in front of you. As you keep the fingers clasped, slowly raise your arms as far as it feels comfortable. 

Performing stretches brings many benefits that senior citizens can enjoy long term. 

Great Benefits to Wheelchair Seated Exercises

Even if they're bound to a wheelchair, senior citizens can enjoy the many benefits of seated exercises such as arm stretches, stomach twists, toe-tapping, seated torso twist, and more. 

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