Whether you were born paraplegic or lost the use of your legs through injury or disease, you need to participate in some form of exercise to remain healthy. Aerobic, strength and flexibility exercises should be integrated into a complete fitness regimen in which you participate regularly. In addition to keeping your heart healthy, regular exercise will help you maintain a healthy weight, vital for your health and mobility.
Aerobic exercise is vital to maintain a healthy heart. According to the University of Illinois, many fitness facilities that cater to the disabled provide specialized equipment, such as bicycles that you ride by using your arms or treadmills designed for wheelchair use. Rowing machines provide a significant workout for your upper body and can help you achieve an increased heart rate.
Tendonitis in the arms and shoulders is a common condition among people in wheelchairs. To prevent tendon injuries and muscle strain, it's important to do stretching exercises to keep your upper-body muscles limber. Reach with your arms over your head and to the side. Don't bounce, but hold each stretch for 20 seconds to fully extend the muscles and send blood pulsing through them. Propel your wheelchair backward as part of your regular flexibility routine to stretch your arm and shoulder muscles in a different direction.
Your upper-body strength will naturally develop as you move and maneuver with your wheelchair when self-propelling. Target specific muscle groups to make sure your upper body receives a balanced workout. Lifting free weights or working with cable pulley machines is a way to build specific arm, back, core and shoulder muscles. The sitting pushup increases your entire upper-body musculature. At the same time, the sitting pushup momentarily takes pressure off your buttocks, something you need regularly. Hold the arms of your chair, and push yourself up, holding the position for about 10 to 20 seconds. Lower and repeat 10 times. Include sitting pushups in your regular workout routines, and perform them two or three times through out the day, every day.
Circuit training is ideal if you are newly disabled and beginning a new set of exercise routines as a paraplegic. You can steadily build the intensity and duration of each exercise as you gain strength. Meanwhile, even at the beginning, by moving from station to station in a circuit-training routine, you'll hit the major muscle groups and increase your heart rate for cardiovascular benefits. Vary the plan between aerobic activities and strengthening machines to achieve a full balanced workout.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.