What exercises can wheelchair-bound elderly people do?

Trifocus fitness academy - wheelchair bound elderly
Special Populations Blog

As a person who’s over the age of 65, finding exercises that you are able to do is hard enough. Unfortunately, finding exercises that you’re able to do becomes more difficult when you’re confined to a wheelchair.

Being in a wheelchair means that your body doesn’t reap the health benefits that come with walking and performing daily activities. Apart from your arms growing stronger, your body is stagnant for most of the day. This is why exercise is that much more important when you are confined to a wheelchair.

Sitting in a wheelchair all day can also have a negative effect on your state of mind. This is because being in a wheelchair limits your daily movements as you’re not able to do things that an able-bodied person is capable of doing. This knowledge can very easily lead to feelings of depression and anxiety. On top of this, not being able to move around freely will inhibit the endorphins released.

Try these exercises to relieve the stress of being wheelchair-bound. Note before you start each exercise straighten your back and press it firmly against the back of your wheelchair. Stop when you are tired because if you overexert yourself you could do yourself massive injury.

Wheelchair exercises for the elderly


Front raises are responsible for building a person’s shoulders in addition to increasing upper-body strength. Here’s how to do them:

  • Hold a light weight in each hand.
  • Rest your hands on top of your legs.
  • Straighten your arms, without locking your elbows.
  • Point your knuckles forward and straighten your wrists.
  • Lift the weights in front of your shoulders, parallel to the floor.
  • Lower and stop before your hands touch your legs.
  • Repeat 12 to 15 times.


Bicep curls are responsible for strengthening a person’s upper arms. As you’re relying on the strength of this part of your arms to propel yourself in your wheelchair, you’ll need to develop strength in these areas of your body:

  • Hold a light weight in each hand.
  • Tighten your stomach muscles.
  • Hang your arms by the sides of your chair and turn your hands forward.
  • Lift the weights to your shoulders, pause, then lower and repeat.
  • Repeat eight to 15 times.


Cardiovascular exercise elevates your heart rate, increases circulation and works up a sweat. Throwing some air-punches can also alleviate frustration or tension.

  • Sit up straight in your chair.
  • Tighten your stomach muscles.
  • Bend your arms at 90 degrees and lift your elbows by your sides.
  • Straighten your wrists.
  • Punch your right arms across your body and return it to the starting position.
  • Do the same with your left arm.
  • Continue alternating on each side and pick up the pace after you master your form.


Sitting in a wheelchair can take a toll on your lower back and stomach muscles. If you have weak muscles in your abdomen, they won’t be efficient at holding up your lower back. As a result, this often causes lower back pain. Wood chops build abdominal muscles. Here’s how to do them:

  • Hold a light weight with both hands.
  • Sit up straight and press your back against the chair.
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles and relax your shoulders.
  • Straighten your arms, then bend your elbows slightly.
  • Lift the weight above your right shoulder.
  • Lower the weight to the left side of your left hip, outside your chair.
  • Do this while keeping your shoulders and hips squared forward.
  • Repeat 15 times.
  • Do the same on the other side.

Not only does your body stay strong and healthy when you exercise, but exercising can improve your mood and psychological well-being. An active lifestyle can also help you maintain independence. Consult with your physician before starting an exercise programme to determine the appropriate frequency and level exertion.

Contact Trifocus Fitness Academy

Do you want to become a personal trainer for the elderly? Trifocus Fitness Academy’s Exercise and Elderly Course is just the qualification to help you get there! For more information about this and our other online fitness course, please visit our website.

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