Exercise is more important than ever for people with spinal cord injuries. Previously, the most common causes of death among people with spinal cord injuries were blood infections and pneumonia, but now cardiovascular disease ranks high. This however can easily be prevented with regular exercise.
“The Sitting Disease” is a real thing and many people with spinal cord injuries will eventually have some kind of cardiovascular issue. Regular exercise however and a healthy diet can very much help.
And you do not need expensive adaptive workout equipment, access to a trainer or an accessible gym to work out on a regular basis. Most people with spinal cord injuries work out at home. There are thousands of spinal cord injury videos online that are made by individuals with SCI showing how to create a home gym.
From using everyday things in the home to workout to simply pushing around the block, any kind of movement is good when you can no longer walk on a regular basis.
Do Cardio 3x Week
Cardiovascular health is huge once you become a wheelchair-user. Many will experience poor heart health as they age. The good news is that you can make a huge impact on your heart health by doing a cardiovascular workout at least three times a week. Many people will do a HIIT workout, a high intensity workout in their wheelchair, to get their heart rate up.
Hand-cycles, wheelchair boxing (hitting the bag or air), wheelchair zumba and wheelchair aerobics are also all great workouts for getting your cardio. It’s recommended to exercise for at least 20 minutes. And if you aren’t sure what kind of exercises to do, consult a physical therapist. There are many examples on our site as well. Here are some of our favorites:
- Time To Get In-Shape — C5/6 Quadriplegic Workout
- Home Cardio Fitness Test For Wheelchair Users | Survive 25
- A Tetra Aerobics Workout- Video 48- Ella’s Wheelchair Workouts!
Lift Weights 3x Week
Lift weights on a regular basis if you have a spinal cord injury. Many people forget to lift weights as part of their regular workout routine and they are doing a disservice to their health. Lifting weights helps build muscles, but it can also be a cardiovascular workout if done by doing quicker reps. It is a great combination workout.
Velcro wrist weights that are 5lb to 10lbs are weights used by many quadriplegics. Paraplegics and quadriplegics will also use weight pulley machines in their homes in addition to hand weights.
Discover an Adaptive Sport or Activity
An easy way to exercise without it seeming like a chore is to find an adaptive sport or activity you like so that moving and getting outside comes naturally. Many paraplegics and quadriplegics have a handcycle, which they can use with friends and family on regular bikes. Wheelchair tennis is another sport that is popular for this reason (it can be played with those without a disability), as well as sit-skiing.
There are dozens of other fun sports and rec ideas to consider. Some include adaptive water-skiing, adaptive horseback riding, adaptive archery, wheelchair ping-pong, wheelchair pickleball, wheelchair basketball, adaptive golf, adaptive paddling, wheelchair fishing, wheelchair billiards, wheelchair bowling, wheelchair ballroom dance and many more.
Picking just one new adaptive activity or sport and adding it to your life on a regular basis as well can change your exercise habits and do a lot in keeping you healthy long-term.