For many of us whose bodies are ageing, being in a wheelchair either for long periods of time or permanently is just a part of life. In fact, over 1 million Australians over the age of 65 have a physical disability, such as being limited to a chair, with over 500,000 of those being severe core activity limitations.

However, to live an active, healthy and independent senior lifestyle, you need to be able to do just that – remain active and healthy. So what should you know about staying fit despite your condition?

The importance of staying fit in a wheelchair

Though it may seem easy enough just to forget regular exercise whilst in a wheelchair, it's still important to try and keep your fitness levels up. 

"Using a wheelchair can make it more difficult to do cardiovascular physical activity that raises your heart rate and makes you warm enough to break a sweat," Philip Gill, a specialist tutor at the UK's YMCAfit, told the UK's National Health System. 

"This kind of exercise is important for the health of your heart and lungs. Missing out on this kind of exercise can contribute to weight gain over time."

What can you do to keep fit in a wheelchair?

Thanks to the safe community of your NSW retirement village, there is plenty of space for you to get outside and move around, despite any mobility impairment. Cardiovascular activity is an excellent way to raise your heart rate, and is often recommended for those hoping to get fit.

Try instead going for a 'wheelchair sprint' around the block. Alternatively, you could pop to the local swimming to try aqua jogging, as the water could support your body weight.

Gentle strength training is also something you could, and indeed should, try. You see, pushing around a chair can cause repeated strain on your chest and shoulders, though your back won't get worked at all. This means you could be causing damage in two places, from both over and underuse.

Using small weights or resistance bands, you can begin to train these muscles, helping strengthen them and keep you mobile. 

As with all exercise, remember to warm up properly beforehand. That means stretching gently for at least 10 minutes prior, and cooling down for at least 10 minutes after.

If you would like more tips on keeping healthy while in a wheelchair, talk to your preferred doctor for professional advice. 

How do you stay active and healthy if you are in a wheelchair?