Despite the messaging in tennis shoe commercials and Instagram ads, fitness isn’t just for those who are able-bodied — those who can run and jump and contort their bodies into pretzel shapes. We have many clients in wheelchairs, and they’re some of the most impressive athletes we know! But they didn’t get to where they are now doing the traditional workouts or putting in time on traditional exercise equipment. Here are the top 10 adaptive exercise equipment our clients use to get fit.
But first! We wanted to let you know that we’ve broken the list up into sections. The first list is the top 10 exercise machines for people in wheelchairs. The second is top 10 exercise props anyone can use — because we know that not everyone has access to this amazing adaptive exercise equipment and not everyone has the means to purchase them for themselves. We believe fitness should be accessible to all.
Top 10 Adaptive Exercise Machines for People in Wheelchairs
Note: These pieces of equipment aren’t listed in any particular order. All have something amazing to offer to those in wheelchairs!
The equipment included in this kit seems simple, but it gives you the opportunity to build muscle mass and strength in several areas of your body. It includes resistance tubes, handles, a combination hand/finger exerciser, a carrying case, and instructions for different exercises.
The McLain Wheelchair Training Rollers are like a treadmill for your wheelchair. Simply rolls your wheels up on the little ramp to the rolls and roll as fast or as slow as you’d like.
Have you ever had trouble lifting yourself out of your wheelchair? This piece of adaptive exercise equipment can help with that! The Selectorized Dip Rickshaw by Equalizer is set up so that you can back into it, in your wheelchair, and push yourself up using the arms. However, there’s some added resistance: There are weighted plates on the back to help you build strength!
The Sammons Preston Active Passive PRO is a stationary exercise bike you can use while sitting in your wheelchair. Consider the exercise you do here as more physical therapy on your upper and lower body.
5. Vitaglide Wheelchair Fitness Machine
Using your upper body to get around can get tiring, especially for your shoulders. You can protect your shoulders from injury with the Vitaglide Wheelchair Fitness Machine. Position your wheelchair in front of it, then pull your wheels onto the small platforms and push yourself off of them again. This pull-push motion is a great way to strengthen your shoulders!
The Wheelchair Fitness Solution is a full-body workout, not for the faint of heart. For those in wheelchairs who are serious athletes, this piece of equipment allows for 30 different exercise techniques. It works out almost any body part you can think of!
If you’ve ever felt called to workout on a stationary bike but couldn’t balance in the seat, the Cando Chair Cycle is the perfect piece of adaptive exercise equipment for you! You can sit in the safety of your wheelchair and pedal your legs with the Cando Chair Cycle, working out your limited range of motion or using your arms to move your legs and work your leg muscles.
Unlike the resistance bands we mention in our second list (below), these resistance bands come with adaptive wrist straps to make sure they stay on while you’re using them. They even come with a door anchor, you can pull against the stability of your door frame for a high-endurance workout. This is great for those hoping to increase their range of motion.
The piece of equipment helps those in wheelchairs get in a fast, steamy workout. You can burn up to 350 calories in just 30 minutes! With four separate rollers, you can work out each arm individually, so you can make sure you’re not favoring one side over the other.
10. Pedal Exerciser
The pedal exerciser is adaptive in more ways than one. You can use it to work out your arms by moving them in slow or fast circles, and you can set your feet in them and pedals your legs by lifting them with your arms to build muscle mass there.
Top 10 Adaptive Exercise Props Anyone* Can Use
* We want to specify that the exercise props listed below can be used by anyone with mobility in the top half of their body. We’re listing them here because they were made with able-bodied people in mind, but they can also be used by people in wheelchairs. Stay tuned for future blogs about adaptive exercise equipment for those who do not have upper-body mobility.
You can dribble, pass the ball to a teammate, and shoot hoops from a wheelchair. A basketball can be fun for anyone!
While rolling yourself around in your wheelchair can be a workout on its own, you can also build strength in your arms with simple dumbbells. If you’re looking for a challenge, dumbbells come up to 100 pounds!
3. Medicine Ball
Medicine balls are perfect for a number of exercises. You can work your triceps by lifting a heavy medicine ball over your head with both arms. You can use it to work out your abs by holding it with both hands at your diaphragm and twisting from side to side. They even allow to exercise your motor skills, if you pass the medicine ball back and forth between you and a partner.
4. Golf Club
Golf is another sport that doesn’t require lower-body mobility. You can roll around on the golf course — most people do in golf carts anyway — and hit balls with your golf club right from your wheelchair.
5. Swimming Pool
Swimming is a full-body exercise, even for people without full-body mobility. As you move through the water, the weight of your legs are trailing behind you, creating some small resistance, which can help keep your muscles from becoming fully atrophied. If you have limited mobility in your legs, the pool is also a safe place to practice standing or walking slowly.
6. Resistance Bands
For those who aren’t partial to lifting heavy weights, resistance bands are the perfect middle ground. After connecting the bands to a stationary object or to one of your other body parts, you can pull or push against the bands to strengthen your muscles. Resistance bands can also help increase flexibility by letting you sink deeper into stretches!
7. Pullup Bar
A pullup bar is a versatile workout prop that you can use at the gym or in your own home. They even have removable pullup bars that you can hand from the top of a door frame. Do pull ups, arm hangs, and even workout your abs.
8. Gripping Gloves
You use your hands for practically everything. It’s easy for them to get calloused during your everyday activities, not to mention when you’re working out! Gripping gloves can protect your hands from gashes and cuts that can lead to hard calluses over time.
9. Yoga Mat
A yoga mat is your space to meditate or work hard. It’s your choice! Here are some yoga moves for those with limited lower-body mobility:
- Upward-facing dog
- Seated forward fold
- Modified chaturanga
10. Yoga Blocks
Yoga blocks are a wonderful tool. They can help you sink deeper into seated forward fold or help you get a deeper stretch in modified chaturanga or even upward-facing dog.
Benefits of Adaptive Exercise
Adaptive exercise refers to physical activities that are designed specifically for individuals with disabilities or limitations. These exercises are adapted to cater to the unique needs and abilities of each person, allowing them to engage in physical fitness and reap its numerous benefits.
One of the significant benefits of adaptive exercise is improved physical fitness. By participating in tailored exercises, individuals with disabilities can enhance their cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, flexibility, and balance. Regular physical activity can also lead to weight management and reduced risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
Moreover, adaptive exercise promotes mental well-being. Engaging in physical activity releases endorphins, also known as the “feel-good” hormones. This can improve mood, reduce stress and anxiety levels, and increase self-esteem and confidence. Physical fitness can also enhance cognitive function, memory, and overall brain health.
Want to Become an Adaptive Exercise Personal Trainer?
Whether you’re in a wheelchair and you want to become a personal trainer or you’re a personal trainer who wants to become qualified to work with those in wheelchairs, we have a certification for you. Check out our certification options and see which one is right for you.
Strong Education teaches personal trainers and service providers on how to adapt fitness and nutrition for children, adolescents, and adults with autism, Down Syndrome, and other disabilities through our online adaptive special needs certification course.