Would you like to become fitter and healthier, but don’t know where to start? Regardless if you use a manual or power wheelchair or walk, there’s no shortage of options—from home-based and indoor activities and sports, to activities and sports you can enjoy in the great outdoors.
We believe the best approach is to find a mix of activities that work out different body areas, and blend aerobic and strength conditioning. Above all, make sure you choose activities you enjoy—and that are safe for you.
Are you using a power wheelchair?
The Activity Ramp
Start at the bottom and gradually work your way up
Different types of activities and sport require increasing levels of commitment and dedication as you work your way up the ramp. Climb to your ideal level at a speed that works for you.
These activities are meant to be flexible, relatively easy, and a good starting point for people just embarking on their fitness journey. They are also ideal for experienced exercisers who aren’t able to do their usual workout routine because of a lack of time. Many of these activities can be done at home, or close to home.
- Walk or wheel to work or school
- During bad weather, walk or wheel at the mall, an indoor track, or an arena
- Park further away from your destination and walk or wheel the rest of the way (remember: be safe!)
- Take the dog out for a walk or roll
- Tackle some household activities, such as vacuum cleaning or washing the windows
- Do some gardening and yard work
- Play with your kids
- Exercise with a resistance band while watching TV, working on the computer, or reading. Click here for some examples.
- Do some householding activities, such as carrying out heavy bags of trash
- Do some gardening and yard work
- Do calf raises at the sink while doing dishes
I tried riding an electric bike. This has been a game changer. I can now bike absolutely anywhere, and because of the electric assist, I last so much longer, can actually get up inclines. And if I do get too pooped, I can still make it home using the assist alone.”
— Kristina Shelden
These activities are typically higher in intensity and may bring greater fitness and health benefits than everyday active activities. Some can be done solo, while others require making a commitment to a team or organization.
- Walk or wheel for fun and endurance
- Cycle using a handcycle or stationary bike
- Work out with an arm ergometer (arm bike)
- Swim (with assistance if needed)
- Do aerobic activities at home using exercise videos
- Do standing frame exercises
- Play recreational sports (basketball, curling, wheelchair rugby, tennis)
- Build strength with resistance bands
- Lift weights. Don’t have any? Use cans, bottles, or other household items
- Use cable pulleys
- Practice yoga, Pilates or Tai Chi
Activities at home
Do you want to be active at home? The Active Homes initiative, developed by SCI Action Canada, offers research-based guides and videos for people with SCI who want to do strengthening activities in their own homes.
The guides are illustrated and provide some creative ways to meet your strength training goals.
Looking for a place to be active in your neighbourhood?
Do you love competing? If so, consider trying some organized sports. It’s truly amazing how many sports, both individual and team, have been adapted for play by people with SCI.
|Adapted sports that
can be low cost
*can require a specialty chair
|Sports activities that typically require specialized equipment**|
** Please note that many clubs provide free opportunities to try the sport along with any needed specialized equipment, and many clubs provide or rent specialized equipment for no or low cost.
Looking for a sport club or place to be active?
Explore the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s website Get Involved portal and the Find a club section
Canadian Paralympic Committee website
I encourage other people with SCI to just try! If getting healthier is important to you, try lots of different sports and activities, even if you have doubts about whether or not you’ll enjoy them. Initially, I was very resistant to trying the sport of wheelchair curling. But when I did, I thoroughly enjoyed it – and went on to compete for Canada in many World Championships and three Paralympic Games.”
— Sonja Gaudet
I kept myself open to new opportunities to be physically active and tried everything that came up. I stuck with the activities I felt like I could do without too much difficulty, that I enjoyed doing, and that connected me to awesome people I wanted to be around.”
— Teri Thorson
Remaining physically active after my SCI has provided me with opportunities I never thought I’d have, including competing internationally as a wheelchair tennis athlete. I’ve travelled to over 15 countries to play wheelchair tennis and have met so many friends because of it. With the right equipment and the right attitude, anyone can be active after a SCI and the possibilities that follow are endless.”
— Robert Shaw