Wheelchair Fitness and Health

One popular thing that people have been doing during quarantine is working out and taking care of their body. Whether it’s for work or for school, it’s tiring sitting in front of a computer screen all day long. Getting bored during the last few months has people sitting in front of the television and not getting much exercise. Since people can’t go to their local gym, they are trying different techniques that help them work out at home. Whether it is going on walks, following a workout video online, or any other form of exercise, there is one question people in the wheelchair community may ask themselves. How do I work out?

For me as a kid, I prefer stretching over working out. Not only does it feel good on my body, but it is also good for me. There are several ways and positions I can stretch my body. If I am sitting in my Quantum Edge® 3 power wheelchair, I can use the TRU-Balance® 3 power tilt and recline features to stretch my back out, lay down, and lift my legs up and down. On days when my back is hurting because of pressure, I spend most of my time reclined to help stretch my back. Because I have a muscle wasting disease, it is even more important to make sure I stretch all my muscles or I will lose the ability to use them.

Sakina exercises in her power wheelchair

Finding different ways to work out while in a wheelchair isn’t as hard as most people think. We are always able to find modified ways to do things. Being in a wheelchair still allows people to play sports such as wheelchair soccer, wheelchair basketball and relay races. There are also many workout videos online created by therapists. You can use these videos to build strength in different parts of your body. For example, you can build upper body strength by using 5-pound weights or a bar, depending on your level of strength.

I recently went to the park and they had a makeshift gym set up outside! It had straps attached to a bar and I was able to hold on and use it to pull myself up all while being safe outdoors. Lower body workouts, however, are a little bit more difficult depending on your disability. If you are unable to do stretches in your chair, it is easier once you are laying down and have more space.

Another thing that a lot of kids in power wheelchairs struggle with is gym class. Once again, it all depends on what type of disability you have. Some kids are exempt from gym class, but if you aren’t it’s difficult to try and communicate your abilities. Especially when it’s virtual. This year was my first year not being exempt from gym class and doing it virtually. Luckily, I was able to reach out to my gym teacher and explain to him what I could and could not do. Instead of doing what the other kids do in gym class, I use that time to do exercise and stretch my body. It is so important to try to stay fit and healthy, whether you have a disability or not. Eating right combined with doing exercise and stretching techniques keeps you healthy and as an added bonus, it helps the days go by faster during quarantine!

About Sakina Shamsi: Sakina lives in New Jersey with her parents and brother. Although she has spinal muscular atrophy type II, Sakina lives a full and independent lifestyle. She is active in the disability community and enjoys horseback riding, baking and crafting. Click here to learn more about Sakina.