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Keeping Wheelchair Fit: 5 Core Chair Exercises

chair exercises
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It’s sad but true: many people think that those of us in wheelchairs can’t, and don’t want to do any chair exercises, keep fit or continue to take care of our appearance.  

This is simply untrue. Really, we are still able to do all of those things, but they might be a little tougher, take a little longer, or require some clever adaptation.  In this article, you’re going to learn how to keep wheelie fit, one chair exercise at a time.

5 chair exercises

1. Move those shoulders!

We use our shoulders a lot, so it’s important that we keep them strong and supple.  For this chair exercises, you’ll need to sit up straight in your wheelchair with your arms straight out in front of you.  Your hands need to be facing down, and your fingers need to be holding an imaginary bike handle. Ready? Push those arms out as far as you can without locking your joints, and then bend your elbows up towards you.  Now pull your arms back until your elbows are behind your body. Squeeze those shoulder blades together and feel the pull! Repeat 10 times.

2. Balloon Squeeze

Sit up straight in your chair and hold a medicine ball, basketball or balloon up to your chest. The more you squeeze the ball, the harder you will be working your chest muscles.  Push the ball out in front of you until your elbows are nearly straight, and continue to squeeze the ball and work the chest muscle. Pull the ball (or balloon) back towards your chest and repeat 10 times.  Remember to focus and do this exercise slowly to really make the muscle work.

3. The Zombie Twist

This chair exercise is perfect for Halloween; you’ll end up looking a bit like a zombie! Sit up straight in your chair and put your arms out in front of you (like a zombie) whilst making sure that your elbows stay at your side.  Now focus those core muscles in your trunk and turn slowly to the right, as far as you can go without hurting yourself, hold the pose, and turn back until your body is centred. Then, do the same for the left side turn. Repeat 10 times for each side, and ‘suck’ your tummy muscles in, if you can, for an extra muscle workout.

4. The Jazz Toes

This exercise is perfect for those of us who enjoy listening to music whilst sat in our chair, and tapping our toes! Again, sit up straight in your chair or wheelchair and place your feet flat on the ground or flat on your footplate.  Simply move your toes up towards the ceiling and then point them to the floor. You should feel a pull at the back of your foot. Repeat 10 times. You can do this exercise with both feet at the same time, or work alternately with them, if you prefer.  Get toe-tapping!

5. Higher Knee Chair Exercises

As always, sit up straight in your chair or wheelchair and engage those core muscles in your torso.  Put your feet flat on the ground or flat on your footplate. Slowly lift one of your legs as far as you can comfortably manage and bend your knee back towards you. Hold that pose for 5 seconds (if you can) before lowering your foot down and starting the exercise again with the other leg.  Repeat this exercise 10 times with each leg – you’ll feel like you’re marching!

So there you have it, good, solid chair exercises that you can successfully complete whilst sitting down in your wheelchair or on a chair.  Enjoy building a fitter, healthier new you! And if you are interested in participating in a team sport while keeping fit, options like wheelchair rugby might be a perfect fit!