I’m in a wheelchair and I want to exercise – Patient information leaflet

Information about exercising whilst in a wheelchair and the benefits of it.

This leaflet may not be reproduced in whole or in part, without the permission of Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust

  • Introduction

    There are currently around 1.2 million wheelchair users in the UK. Two thirds of them are regular users.

  • Why should I exercise?

    • Reduce risk of heart disease, stroke and type II diabetes.
    • Better health, mood and energy.
    • Reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression
    • Improve sleep.
    • To improve self esteem and confidence.
    • More social opportunities.
    • Reach and maintain a healthy weight.

  • What are the neurological benefits?

    • Help nerve impulses travel faster to the brain.
    • Increase focus and ability to stay on task.
    • Increase blood flow to the brain.
    • Improve balance, strength, suppleness and mobility.
    • Increase body awareness.

  • How much exercise should I do?

    For adults aged (19-64), it is recommended to complete at least 150 minutes a week of aerobic activity, plus
    strength exercises on 2 or more days a week. If exercising at moderate intensity you should be able to talk but will be unable to sing a song’

    Alternatively, if carrying out vigorous exercise, the amount recommended is halved to around 75mins (or 1.25 hours) per week. If exercising at a vigorous intensity, you won’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing for breath.

    Remember- You may have to start off with shorter periods of exercise and gradually build this up over a period of weeks and months

  • What types of exercise can I do?


    Playing cards – 30 calories burned in 15 minutes
    Playing board games – 30 calories burned in 15 minutes
    Ironing – 34 calories burned in 15 minutes
    Playing with children, sitting down – 42 calories burned in 15 minutes
    Driving – 40 calories burned in 15 minutes
    Playing a guitar – 60 calories burned in 15 minutes
    Wheelchair basketball – 111 calories burned in 15 minutes

    Note – The amount of calories burned will vary depending on your weight, gender and intensity of exercise.

  • What precautions are there to exercising?

    Carrying out physical activities will come with precautions. These are some of the things that you should be aware of prior to, during and following your exercise.

    Pain – No exercise should cause you discomfort. If this occurs, stop the exercise and seek advice.
    Fatigue – Some neurological conditions may cause you to suffer from fatigue. Consider this factor following your exercise. Pacing and structuring your exercise programme can help reduce fatigue, ask your physiotherapist for strategies.
    Medications – It is always best to check with your GP prior to exercising if you are taking any medications.
    Medical history – Exercise will alter your heart rate, blood pressure and other body systems. If you suffer from other medical conditions, it is advised that you check with your GP first.
    Dehydration – Exercise will make you thirsty, so it is essential that you take on enough fluids, as dehydration can make you feel unwell.

  • What are the next steps?

    You could try contacting one, or a few, of the following:
    • Local leisure centres to enquire about suitable facilities, classes and support.
    • GP for information on improving your fitness.
    • Search the internet for activities in your local area.
    • Speak to different support agencies for more information e.g. Headway, Stroke Association, MS Society etc
    • Speak to your physiotherapist.
    • Incorporate more activity into your daily routine.
    • Speak to your family and get them involved too.
    • Speak to your social worker with regards to support accessing exercise in the community.
    • Wheelchair accessible venues such as beach and parks that offer wheelchairs and other services.

    For more information on the benefits of exercise, please refer to ‘Physical Activity and Mental Health Factsheet’ found in the Knowledge Centre at Walkergate Park.

  • References

    • www.dh.gov.uk
    • www.gov.uk
    • www.bhf.org.uk
    • www.nhs.uk
    • www.csp.org.uk
    • www.thecalculator.co.uk

  • What if I have a comment, suggestion, compliment or complaint about the service?

    If you want to make a comment, suggestion, compliment or complaint you can:
    • talk to the people directly involved in your care
    • ask a member of staff for a feedback form, or complete a form on the Trust website www.cntw.nhs.uk (click on the ‘Contact Us’ tab)
    • telephone the Complaints Department 0191 245 6672
    • email [email protected] Please note that information sent to the Trust via email is sent at your own risk
    • We are always looking at ways to improve services. Your feedback allows us to monitor the quality of our services and act upon issues that you bring to our attention.
    You can provide feedback in the following ways:
    – the quickest way for you to do this is to complete our short online survey at
    – complete a Points of You survey, available from staff.

  • Information about content, other formats and version control

    Further information about the content, reference sources or production of this leaflet can be obtained from the Patient Information Centre. If you would like to tell us what you think about
    this leaflet please get in touch.

    This information can be made available in a range of formats on request (eg Braille, audio,
    larger print, easy read, BSL or other languages). Please contact the Patient Information Centre Tel: 0191 246 7288

    Published by the Patient Information Centre
    2021 Copyright, Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust
    Ref, PIC/657/1121 November 2021 V4
    www.cntw.nhs.uk Tel: 0191 246 7288
    Review date 2024