Therapists and exercise specialists generally recommend that wheelchair users focus on resistance exercises to improve upper body strength and help reduce chances of injury. You should always talk to your doctor or physical therapist to get clearance and guidance for your best options. Another option is an exercise video demonstrating seated upper body strengthening exercises.
If you get more serious about exercise, you might want to think about investing in some specialized exercise equipment. There are many new strength training machines available for people in wheelchairs, as well as handcycles and other cardio equipment. My son has a handcycle, and it’s great exercise for building the upper body. The website exercise.about.com says to not let a lack of special equipment keep you from your workout. They suggest that if you have upper body mobility, try lifting your arms straight out in front of you, hold for a few seconds, then lower. Next, lift your arms out to the sides (stopping at shoulder level), hold and then lower. Do both exercises 15-20 times and, as you get stronger, hold light hand weights. More specific upper body activities include shoulder shrugs, overhead presses and bicep curls. Again, check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
Check with your local recreation center for exercise programs for the disabled. LaFayette has the No Limits program (contact me at email below). Get out and walk if possible. The city of LaFayette and Walker County have several walking tracks and trails. There are two walking areas near the recreation center in LaFayette, one next to the LaFayette Police Department on North Main St. (Joe Stock Park), one in Rock Spring next to the Walker County Civic Center, one on Ga. 151 at the Woodstation voting precinct and one in Rossville near the city’s recreation center.
Chattanooga Parks and Recreation-Therapeutic Recreation Division has cycling programs (including handcycles), golfing, bowling, wheelchair basketball, power soccer (for power wheelchair users), hiking, swimming (which is great exercise for someone with physical disabilities) and other forms of recreation. Contact Elaine Adams at 423-697-1345 for programs in the Chattanooga area.
It really doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do something. Get out there and get moving, even if you need help doing it.
References: exercise.about.com; disabled-world.com/fitness/exercise/; email@example.com
Pam Rasmussen is a resident of LaFayette. She is a mother of a child with Spina Bifida and an advocate of special needs children and adults. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.