Paraplegia causes paralysis and muscle loss in the lower body, often leading to a sedentary lifestyle, increasing your risk of obesity and other chronic conditions such as heart disease.
The good news is that exercise helps combat the side effects of spending the majority of your day in a wheelchair. Aerobic exercise such as using an arm bike or wheeling yourself around the neighborhood burns calories and strengthens your heart.
Because you depend on your arms for all your daily activities, upper-body strengthening exercises should also be a regular part of your workout routine. Exercises target muscles that help you get in and out of your chair, lift objects and perform household tasks. As an added benefit, having more muscle means your body burns more calories at rest.
Exercises can be performed with free weights, resistance bands or household objects such as water bottles or socks full of pennies. Strengthening exercises are typically performed eight to 10 repetitions at a time, working up to three sets in a row. Workout 2 to 3 times per week, with at least one day of rest between sessions.
Read more: Paraplegic Abdominal Exercises
Wheelchair pushups strengthen your triceps and shoulder blade muscles that help you transfer out of your chair and move around in bed.
To do this exercise, place your hands on top of your chair wheels. Lean forward at your hips, press down through your palms and straighten your elbows. Push your shoulder blades down at the same time and try to lift your backside off your chair seat. Hold for 1 to 2 seconds, then slowly lower back down.
Shoulder presses improve your ability to reach overhead.
To do this exercise, hold one dumbbell in each hand. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and lift your arms out to the sides at shoulder-height. This is your starting position. Press the weights up over your head and straighten your elbows. Your hands should come together overhead. Hold for 2 to 3 seconds, then slowly lower back to the starting position.
Arm raises strengthen the deltoid muscles on top of your shoulders.
To do this exercise, hold one dumbbell in each hand and straighten your elbows. Lift one arm straight out in front of you, palm down, to shoulder-height. Hold for 2 to 3 seconds, then slowly lower back down. Repeat on the other side. Perform this same movement lifting you arm straight out to the side to shoulder-height.
Strong biceps help you lift objects and pull yourself into a seated position.
To do this exercise, hold one dumbbell in each hand. Rest your hands on your thighs with your palms up. Bend one elbow, lifting the weight toward your upper arm. Hold for 2 to 3 seconds, then lower slowly back down. Repeat on the other side.
Bent-over rows strengthen muscles in your upper back.
To do this exercise, hold one dumbbell in each hand. Bend forward at your hips, as far as you comfortably can. Keeping your arms close to your sides, squeeze your shoulder blades together and bring your elbows back as far as possible. Hold for 2 to 3 seconds, then lower back down. To make this exercise easier, perform one side at a time.
Read more: Stretching Exercises for Paraplegic Spasms