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Simple Physical Therapy Exercises To Improve Mobility
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Simple Physical Therapy Exercises To Improve Mobility

People in wheelchairs often face a number of health challenges, including muscle atrophy and joint deterioration. These can lead to permanent changes to the body, further complicating mobility issues while causing new health problems of their own. However, with help from a professional physical therapist and regular exercise, many of these issues can be avoided entirely.

Physical therapy has made great advances in recent years, and many people in wheelchairs are able to lead full, active, and highly successful lives thanks in part to it. There are a few simple exercises that can help increase mobility and build upper-body strength. With just a few minutes of exercise each day, anyone in a wheelchair can lead a full and active life.

Easy Wheelchair Exercises to Build Upper Body Strength

Here are a few exercises that can help people in wheelchairs maintain their joint and muscle health, build strength and improve their well-being. For the best results, each exercise should be done in three sets of ten to twelve reps, for about a minute each. Allow for a two-minute rest period between each set.

Raise Arm Circles

Hold your arms straight out from your sides, level with the ground. Rotate them in circles for a minute and then rest. Try reversing directions and speed to work different muscles with each repetition. This exercise is great for your shoulders but also works out your chest, triceps, and several neck muscles.

Chest Expansions

Hold both arms straight out in front of you, then quickly move them back and hold them in place. Move them back to their starting position, then snap them back again.

This can help to stretch your pectoral muscles, maintain chest mobility and improve posture. Good posture and chest mobility are especially important for respiration, which can become problematic for wheelchair-bound people over time.

Lateral Raises

Also known as side-arm raises, these exercise your back muscles and especially useful for strengthening your deltoid muscles. Simply raise your arms above your head without locking your elbows, inhaling as you go.

Then lower your arms to your sides, exhaling as you bring the back to your sides.


Dives help to maintain core strength, which is vital for anyone who is wheelchair-bound. These are very similar to crunches but can be done from a sitting position. Simply hold your arms outstretched from your sides, then raise them above your head while leaning forward.

Bring your arms down and forward with the rest of your upper body. Bring yourself upright again while lowering your arms to the starting position, then repeat.

Arm Extensions

It’s easy for people in wheelchairs to lose strength in their triceps, but arm extensions can help to prevent this from happening. Simply pull forward against a resistance band tied behind your wheelchair or lifting weights from behind your back to above your head. Be careful to avoid injury due to a poorly-secured elastic band or from using a weight that is too heavy.

For a more challenging workout, add weights to your exercises, increasing their size as you gain strength. You can also increase the intensity of your exercises or the amount of repetitions you do.

Regular exercise can help people in wheelchairs improve their quality of life and boost their confidence. Of course, rest is just as important as exercise, as your body can only recover and build muscle in the hours after your workout and rehab. Getting fitted for a quality home medical bed can make a huge difference in the quality of your rest and the end results of your workout programs!

Staying active can be fun and easy with these exercises, so get started with them today!

Download the Infographic of These Exercises

Image credit: Photo provided by fotolia

Leave a Comment

  1. SuzeeQupid
    Awesome! There are a lot of YouTube videos on exercise but it takes an article like yours to inspire people to act or look! Great job!
    Log in to reply.

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