Senior exercising from wheelchair

Top 10 Wheelchair Exercises For Seniors—In 1 Gentle Routine

Get those feel-good endorphins that come from being active—right from your wheelchair

Exercise is always the key to feeling & functioning better every day no matter your age or your level of mobility—including if you use a wheelchair. Here are the best wheelchair exercises for seniors to follow along with for a full, gentle workout (or anyone who wants a fully seated routine!)

Benefits of wheelchair exercises

  • Increases strength, flexibility & mobility
  • Releases stiffness & tension caused by sitting
  • Boosts mood by releasing endorphins
  • Improves posture
  • Maintains fitness level
  • Reduces stress, anxiety & depression
  • Improves muscle function
  • Makes you feel great!

Wheelchair exercise routine for seniors

Before we dive in just remember that you should always talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise routine. Now, let’s get started so you can get those strength, mobility & mood boosting benefits!

These exercises are gentle and can all be performed from a wheelchair or any chair.

Side Bend Stretch

Seated side bend stretch exercise

Muscles Stretched: Obliques; Shoulders; Triceps

  1. Sit up straight and lift your right arm up towards the ceiling.
  2. Bend to the left with your extended arm touching your ear and creating a “C” shape with your body.
  3. Hold for 10 seconds then repeat in the other direction.
  4. Repeat 5 times per side.

Shoulder Press

Seated shoulder press exercise

Strengthens: Chest; Triceps; Shoulders; Upper Back

  1. Hold a pair of light dumbbells (or soup cans) in your hands with your palms facing forward.
  2. Bend your arms at 90 degrees and hold the weights on either side of your head.
  3. Push the weights upwards until they meet in the middle, above your head.
  4. Return to starting position.
  5. Repeat 5-10 times.

Banded Pull Apart 

Banded pull apart exercise

Strengthens: Back; Shoulders

  1. Sit upright in your chair with feet planted firmly.
  2. Take hold of the middle part of a resistance band at about shoulder width apart with your arms straight out in front of you.
  3. Draw your shoulder blades together, allowing your arms to spread apart and stretch the band.
  4. Extend your arms out to the sides as far as possible before returning to starting position.
  5. Repeat 5 times.

Bicep Curl

seated bicep curl exercise

Strengthens: Arms; Biceps

  1. Holding a dumbbell (or soup can) in each hand, palms facing the ceiling with arms bent at 90 degrees.
  2. Keeping your upper arms close to your sides, bend at the elbow, lifting the weights up towards your shoulders.
  3. Return to starting position.
  4. Repeat 8 times.

Seated Chest Press

seated chest press exercise

Strengthens: Chest; Shoulders; Upper Back

  1. Wrap a resistance band around the back of your chair.
  2. Hold your arms at a 90 degree angle at shoulder level with palms facing downward.
  3. Extend your arms straight out in front of you.
  4. Hold for 2 seconds then bring arms back to starting position.
  5. Repeat 10 times.

Side Twists

Seated side twist core exercise

Strengthens: Core

  1. Sit up straight & engage your abs (do this by imagining you are sucking your belly button in towards your spine)
  2. Hold your arms at a 90 degree angle, resting them on the armrests of your wheelchair or on your lap.
  3. Slowly rotate your body & head to one side without moving your lower body. Hold for 5 seconds.
  4. Repeat in the other direction.
  5. Repeat 10 times (for each side)

Tricep Extension

Seated tricep extension exercise

Strengthens: Triceps

  1. Holding a dumbbell in one hand (or soup can), lift your arm straight up above your head.
  2. Bend at the elbow & lower the weight behind your head until your arm is at a 90 degree angle.
  3. Slowly raise your arm back up to the starting position.
  4. Repeat 5 times per arm.

Now onto lower body exercises!

If you have some mobility in your legs, it’s important to include lower body exercises to help maintain the level of function you have. If you don’t have any lower body mobility you can end your workout here, skipping the leg exercises. 

Knee Lifts 

Seated knee lift exercise

Strengthens: Quadriceps; Glutes; Hips

  1. Sit up straight with abs engaged.
  2. Slowly lift one leg, as if marching, as high as you can. Hold for up to 5 seconds.
  3. Lower back to the floor.
  4. Repeat with other leg.
  5. Repeat 5 times per leg.

Knee Extensions 

Seated knee extension exercise

Strengthens: Quadriceps

  1. Sit up straight with abs engaged.
  2. Slowly lift one leg and bend at the knee so your leg is straight out in front of you.
  3. Hold briefly & squeeze your thigh muscles then slowly lower leg back down.
  4. Repeat with other leg.
  5. Repeat 8 times per leg.

Calf Raises

Seated calf raise exercise

Strengthens: Calf Muscles

  1. Sit up tall & engage your core.
  2. Lift your heels up off the ground as high as possible.
  3. Slowly lower back down.
  4. Repeat 8 times. (To increase intensity you can hold a pair of dumbbells on top of your knees)

That’s it! Don’t you feel better now? You can easily repeat these wheelchair exercises for seniors 3 times a week and you’ll soon notice an improvement in nearly every thing you do. As you get stronger you can add more sets or increase the number of reps for each exercise to keep progressing.

If you like this workout, you might also like Seated Tai Chi. It’s another 100% seated workout that’s very gentle on the joints and provides some variation to your exercise routine. It primarily engages your upper body muscles with only a couple of easy lower body movements that can easily be skipped. Simply follow along with our certified Tai Chi teacher step-by-step! 

Yes, I’d want to learn more about Seated Tai Chi (Click Or Tap Here)


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