Top 6 Exercises for Wheelchair-Bound Senior Adults

man in wheelchair

What comes to your mind when you think about exercising? Chances are you thought of activities that involve vigorously moving around, such as jogging, sit-ups, strength training, and more. However, not everyone is capable of the necessary complex movements. For example, seniors who are bound to their wheelchairs are faced with limitations when it comes to physical activity. Fortunately, there are many ways for seniors to maintain an active lifestyle!

In this article, we have compiled six strength training exercises that will improve the quality of life of seniors in wheelchairs. Ideally, these activities should be done two to three times a week, with a one-day rest in between each session.

Target Areas: Arm and Chest Muscles

1. Shoulder Retractions

Sit properly and straighten your spine as much as possible while contracting your abdominal muscles. Next, bend your arms at a 90-degree angle and raise them to shoulder level. Your hands need to face down, and your fingers must be curved. Push and extend your arms forward as far as you can. However, don’t overdo it until your joints lock.

Bend your elbows slowly and pull your arms back until your elbows are behind your torso. Next, squeeze your shoulder blades together. Repeat the sequence as many times as you can.

2. Chest Squeeze (Optional: Medicine Ball)

Sit up tall and engage your core so that your back muscles will be at work. Next, hold a medicine ball and put it at chest level. Squeeze the ball in between your hands to contract the chest muscles. If you are a beginner, you can squeeze your palms together instead. Next, extend your arms and push the ball forward, straightening your elbows in the process. Make sure to squeeze the ball while you do so. Take the ball back to the starting position and repeat.

Target Areas: Leg Muscles

1. Knee lifts

Sit up tall, engage your core, and keep your feet flat on the floor. Next, slowly raise your right leg and bend your knee as if you’re about to march. You can raise your leg as high as you’re comfortable with. Lower the right leg and do the same movement with the left leg. Repeat the entire sequence as you alternate per leg.

2. Toe Taps

Straighten your back, engage your abs, and let your feet stay flat on the floor. Slowly tilt your toes up and then point them down. Repeat as many times as you like. To make the movement more intense, raise your leg and straighten it out in front of you. Tilt the toes of the risen leg up and down, then do the same with the other leg.

Target Areas: Core and Abdominal Muscles

1. Captain’s Chair

Straighten your back and hold the front edge of your chair with both of your hands. Next, lift your feet off the ground, slowly bending your knees to your chest in the process. Try to lift as much as you can without overextending yourself. At the peak of the movement, squeeze your abs and slowly lower your feet back to the ground. Remember that lifting your feet just a couple of inches off the floor is perfectly fine.

2. Tummy Twist

Sit up straight, engage your core, and keep your feet flat on the floor. Bend your arms to a 90-degree angle, with your forearms extending in front of you. Keep your elbows right at your side too. Slowly twist your upper torso to the left as much as you can. Go back to the center and do the same movement to the right. Remember to not go past what you’re comfortable with.


Staying active is vital for your overall health. Even if you are in a wheelchair, it shouldn’t stop you from engaging in physical activities. With the help of expert in-home nursing care for the elderly, you can still stay in shape even when you’re seated.

Gateway Home Health provides high-quality home help for the elderly in Denver, CO. Our home-based patient care makes you feel safe and cared for all the time. With the help of our clinical team in Denver, as well as our highly trained therapists and clinical practitioners, we can give you the clinical care you need in the comfort of your own home. Contact us today.

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