5 Adaptive Exercise Options for Wheelchair Users

Young man in wheel-chair doing exercises indoors

We all know that physical activity can help us live a healthy life but coming up with the right exercise plan can be a challenge. However, as more fitness programs aim to improve inclusion, you may find more options out there than you think.

NOTE: We recommend that you talk with your doctor, physical therapist, or personal trainer before beginning any exercise regimen to determine what type of physical activity is ideal for your range of mobility.


Yoga is known for the positive effect it can have on mental health, strength, flexibility, and pain relief. Many poses can easily be done from a seated position or adapted to your unique fitness level. Those who practice yoga regularly often report decreased stress, better sleep, and improved posture, making it a great option for wheelchair users.

The Adapt to Perform channel on YouTube offers a collection of exercises for wheelchair users, including several yoga tutorials:


A handcycle is a three-wheeled cycle designed to be moved by using your arms rather than your legs. They come in many different styles to account for a variety of disability levels. For example, most handcycles are of the “Fork Steer” style and are best for those with either low or high-level spinal injuries.

You can even find add-on attachments that can transform your wheelchair into a handcycle:

Weight Lifting

Strengthening your muscles may be the obvious benefit to lifting weights, but did you know it can also boost metabolism and fat loss? Consider adding weight training to your routine a few days a week and let the results speak for themselves.

Check out this upper body workout from the MS Society:

Dance Fitness

Seated dance workouts like aerobics or adaptive Zumba is a great way to improve your cardiovascular fitness, burn calories, and have fun while doing it! The best part is that you don’t have to worry about whether you’re keeping up with the dance instructor – as long as you’re moving, you’re doing it right.

Join the Rollettes Dance Team for their Jazzercise version of Mambo No. 5:

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is a low-impact, slow-moving form of exercise that originated in China as a martial art. It can improve muscle strength, fight stress, increase your energy levels, and is often described as “meditation in motion.”

You do not need any special equipment to practice tai chi and can often find video classes on YouTube:


Whether you’re looking to break a sweat with a high-intensity workout or reduce stress with a calming, low-impact routine, your doctor can help you develop an exercise regimen for your unique mobility and environment.

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