How to Stay Fit Inside: Winter Exercise Tips for Wheelchair Users

wheelchair exercise

Winter is here! This means cooler weather (or really, really cold weather for those of us in Minnesota and the upper Midwest), snow on the ground or frost in the trees, and much more time spent indoors. For wheelchair users, this means that it may be more difficult to get outside and enjoy the outdoors. It also means less opportunities to be active and move your body.

Regular physical activity is incredibly important for everyone, but especially for wheelchair users. This is because maneuvering a wheelchair can put pressure and strain on many of the upper body muscles and lead to injuries. By keeping the muscles loose and also working on strengthening them, wheelchair users can help prevent these injuries. Essentially, exercising not only helps to burn calories, but it also increases blood flow circulation, loosens stiff joints and muscles, and can even help with mental health.

So, how can wheelchair users get the exercise they need during the long, cold winter months ahead when they are not able to get outdoors or to the gym in their wheelchair van? We put together a list of indoor activities that can help wheelchair users get the daily exercise they need.


Stretching is an important tool for wheelchair users. It is even more important for wheelchair users to use this tool because they spend the majority of their time sitting or lying down and they don’t benefit from the natural stretching a body gets with walking. While it may not seem like much, stretching actually helps with posture, lower back pain and decreasing muscle spasms. Wheelchair users should stretch every day, including both before and after working out, and especially on days that they don’t complete a workout.

In-chair Yoga or Pilates

Yoga and Pilates exercise works to strengthen the core and limber the upper body. For wheelchair users, there are adapted programs to be used from within their chair. Finding classes geared specifically to wheelchair users can be done through a quick video search on YouTube. You may also be in an area where a local fitness center offers in-chair yoga or Pilates in person or virtually.

Seated Tai Chi Classes

Recommended to pair with another type of exercise to get the full benefits of a workout regime, this form of exercise helps to reduce stress and has relaxing, meditative qualities. Tai Chi is slow moving and easy to follow, which makes it a great exercise to follow along with by watching a video. This is another one of those exercises that is readily available on YouTube and you can also find class videos for purchase on Amazon.

Lifting Weights

Weight lifting is one of the best ways for someone to strengthen their muscles. For wheelchair users, strengthening the upper body is important to help with wheelchair maneuverability. It also helps a wheelchair user develop or keep the strength they need for transferring to a bed, toilet or transfer seat. It is recommended to follow wheelchair-specific lifting exercises to reduce the risk of injury. If you do not have weights or have the space for weights, a fitness center should have weights you can use, but a small set of weights will suffice for at home workouts.

Resistance Band Work

Another way to get the benefits of lifting weights from home is through resistance band work. Simply wrap the band around a pole or sturdy object around chest height and you are ready to complete your resistance band workout routine. You can also wrap the band around the back of your wheelchair or use your own back for resistance work, as well. You can find routines for resistance bands online, just make sure you are following ones that are tailored to wheelchair users to prevent injury while adapting resistance band exercises that are intended for someone who is standing.

Adaptive Sports

If adaptive sports are up and running in your area this winter, this is a great way to have fun, socialize and also get in a workout. Sitting volleyball, power soccer, sled hockey and wheelchair basketball, to name just a few, are great indoor sports that often have adaptive sports leagues that wheelchair users can participate in. Check out our blog post for a full list of indoor winter adaptive sports.

If you are looking for outdoor sports to get involved in, there are a lot of winter outdoor options, as well. Some of our favorites include adapted skiing (also known as sit skiing) and adapted snowboarding. Other options include cross country skiing and alpine skiing.

Additional Resources

As we mentioned earlier in this post, YouTube is a great resource for finding home workout videos for wheelchair users. But there are other places you can look to for winter exercise tips, as well. Your doctor and your local fitness center are both great resources and will be able to point you in the right direction in your specific area. Magazines like New Mobility also have articles featuring indoor exercise activities. Many of the nonprofit disability organizations like ALS Association and Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), among others, also have resources that are geared specifically towards the wheelchair users living with the disabilities they support.

Getting Out and About

When you can get out of the house this winter, your Rollx Van will be there to help you get from one place to another. If you are new to wheelchair vans, or looking to buy one to help you get around this winter, our team is ready and waiting to help answer any questions you may have or get you started on your journey to the open road. Contact one of our experienced sales representatives today. We promise you won’t be sorry that you did!

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