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Kent Probst, BS, MEd
Kent Probst is the owner of Long Healthy Life Blog
Exercises for People in Wheelchairs: Why it’s Important
A sedentary lifestyle comes with many health risks, but people in wheelchairs are at a greater risk for health problems such as cardiovascular disease, depression, and low self esteem. This is why exercises for people in wheelchairs is significant.
About 1 billion people worldwide live with lower extremity impairment, a large number using wheelchairs.
People who use wheelchairs tend to have higher body fat percentage, higher body mass index (BMI) and poor serum glucose, lipid, cholesterol profiles. The benefits of exercises for people in wheelchairs can improve these problems.
Strength declines 10% to 15% per decade until age 70. After age 70, loss of strength accelerates to 25% to 40% per decade.
Most people lose 3% to 5% of their muscle mass per decade after age 30.
During the aging process, your muscles atrophy, or shrink. Age-related loss of muscle mass is known as sarcopenia. A sedentary lifestyle accelerates sarcopenia.
Increased muscle mass is associated with significantly lower all-cause mortality in people over age 55.
Therefore, exercises for people in wheelchairs are more important than ever. And here are some recommended exercise routines.
Exercises for People in Wheelchairs: Time to Get Moving
Upper Body Strengthening
Strength Training Guidelines
For beginners, 8-10 multi-joint exercises, or compound exercises, is a great starting point, 2-3 times per week.
Optimal range of repetitions for hypertrophy, or building muscle mass, is 6-12.
10-15 repetitions is a good range for people over 50.
Beginners can start with 2-3 sets per exercise. Allow 48-96 hours rest between workouts.
Cardiovascular Exercise Guidelines
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous cardiovascular exercise to significantly reduce the risk of disease.
Moderate intensity is 40%-59% of heart rate reserve (HRR) and vigorous intensity is 60%-89% of HRR.
To calculate your target heart zone:
- Maximum heart rate = 220 minus your age
- Measure resting heart rate in one minute
- Calculate heart rate reserve (HRR) by subtracting resting heart rate from maximum heart rate
- Multiply HRR by 40%. Add your resting heart rate to this number.
- Multiply HRR by 59%. Add your resting heart rate to this number.
- These two numbers are your target heart zone for moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise
Frequency: 3-5 days per week. Regular cardiovascular exercise is instrumental in achieving a healthy body composition.
Keep in mind, it will be harder to get your heart rate up in a wheelchair if you’re only using your upper body.
Staying Fit in a Wheelchair
The exercise recommendations outlined here are just a sampling of how you can stay fit in a wheelchair. You have many more options.
It’s important to remember that your exercise regimen should include the five components of physical fitness.
Most people can exercise safely without first visiting a doctor.
If you’re not exercising regularly and you have cardiovascular, metabolic or renal disease, or signs or symptoms that suggest you do, you should get medical clearance before commencing exercise.
Realizing that there will be road bumps along the way will make it easier to stick to your plan. If you know what obstacles trigger a relapse, you’ll be more mindful about avoiding or dealing with them.
Make sure you have the right tools and resources. Having a social support network to help you through the tough times will go a long way.
Making exercise an unbreakable habit is within your grasp.
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