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Wheelchair fitness

According to the Paralyzed Veterans of America Association, wheelchair sports unofficially started in the late 1940s when war veterans with various disabilities decided to pass a basketball amongst each other in the hospital ward. Just as athletes without disabilities are able to experience the emotional and physical benefits of individual and team sports, those who are disabled can now be accepted in the wide world of sports too.

In 1957, wheelchair sporting events were legitimized on a large scale when the inaugural National Wheelchair Games were held in New York City. Over the last 50 years, the wheelchair athletic community has expanded to thousands of members around the globe who have joined clubs and organizations to stay active and fit.

Most people are aware that whether we consider ourselves athletes or not, exercise is still essential to our general health and overall well-being. This principle applies to people confined to wheelchairs as well.

Facts obtained by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Resource Center state that disabled people are more likely to be overweight as a result of a slower metabolic rate, less muscle definition, and a more sedentary lifestyle. Studies reveal that wheelchair users are more prone to developing shoulder problems such as pain, joint deterioration, and torn rotator cuffs as a consequence of the constant pressure being put on their arms. The heavier a person is, the more strain it puts on their arms as they wheel themselves around. Weight gain also causes skin folds, which trap moisture and serve as a breeding ground for skin sores.

There are obviously multiple reasons why exercise and physical fitness should be a priority for people with disabilities. If you are a wheelchair user looking to stay in shape, contact your local gym to find out if any of their equipment is wheelchair accessible. If you are interested in other activities, seek out a wheelchair sports organization in a city near you. There is bound to be something that appeals you on this list of manual wheelchair fitness activities:





Racing (marathons)

Hang gliding


Snow skiing



Hockey (includes power wheelchair leagues)


Martial arts

Mountain climbing







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