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Winter Fitness Tips for Wheelchair Users

Wheelchair RampEven though spring is just weeks away, winter storms and freezing temperatures still seem to batter the country. Does the cold winter weather have you or your aging parent hunkering down indoors and skipping your favored outdoor fitness activities? In addition to freezing temperatures, icy and snowy conditions outside simply make going out in a wheelchair more dangerous. When it comes to winter safety and helpful fitness tips, don’t miss this quick guide:

Prepare for Bad Weather

-The winter seasons seem to get worse and worse with more inclement weather, like snowstorms, sneaking up on regions out of the blue. Before you even tackle winter fitness, be prepared for bad weather by:

-Following the latest forecasts from your smartphone no matter where you are with apps like and DarkSky.

-Giving your wheelchair a tune-up to make sure it is operating at optimal performance and offering you the maneuverability and comfort you need. This may involve taking it to a wheelchair repair service or investing in wheelchair accessories like durable gel cushions, utility lighting, and bags.

-Installing snow tires (or wheel blades) on your wheelchair if you continuously encounter winter weather where you live. These assistive upgrades allow you to more safely navigate icy and snowy environments without sliding and slipping.

-Planning for sidewalk and driveway clearing by contracting a service before a storm,or asking a friend or neighbor to plan on helping you out in the event of a storm.

-Carrying a waterproof bag of clean dry clothes (including gloves, hat, etc) with you when venturing out in the cold to have something to change into in case you get wet.

-Extreme cold weather can have a draining effect on batteries. Always leave the house with a full charged wheelchair and phone battery, and bring along portable chargers in case you get held up.

-Stocking your car with a winter emergency kit of items including a blanket, water, flashlight, matches, flares, snacks, shovel, ice scraper, and first aid items.

Stay Hydrated

It’s much easier to forget about drinking water when you’re not breaking a sweat quite like you would in hot summer weather. The truth is, however, cold, dry air will pull more moisture out of your skin, and dehydration can have you feeling the cold more than ever.

Remember to stay hydrated, especially before and after a workout by drinking lots of water. You can also get lots of healthy hydration by eating water-rich foods like soups, stews, and protein smoothies during the winter.

Wear Sunscreen

Winter cloud cover may disguise the UV radiation beaming down on you while you’re outside, however, it is definitely still reaching your skin. Even more “unnoticeable” will be the sun reflecting off of snow and ice on the ground. Lather on the SPF when heading outdoors for prolonged periods, and lock moisture into areas of your skin prone to chapping (i.e. lips, fingertips) with hydrating vaseline.

Layer Up

Part of the danger of outdoor activity in cold weather is the proclivity to sweat, which can make clothes damp. Damp and wet clothes combined with cool, windy air can increase your risk of developing frostbite. Wear layers of clothing when heading outdoors or working out in cooler weather so that you can remove unnecessary clothing as your body warms up without sweating too much.

Set Up an Indoor Workout Routine

Avoid the outdoors altogether by nailing down a fitness routine you can complete in the comfort and safety of your own home. Wheelchair workouts you can do at home may include simple resistance band work, chair yoga, tai chi, light weight lifting, or cardio exercises like Zumba.

Not only will you burn calories with regular physical activity, but you will be improving blood circulation, exercising your heart and lungs, loosening up stiff joints and muscles, and promoting better brain health. You can stream all kinds of helpful, adapted instructional videos for various exercise types on

Invite a Buddy

If the shorter days and the colder weather simply have you in need of a little extra motivation to stay active, rely on a friend to hold you accountable. Invite a buddy to join you for a fitness class you’re interested in at the local gym, or to come by your house once a week to do an at-home yoga workout with you.

Even better, if a snowstorm has you sheltering at home, invite a family member or friend to come stay with you to ride it out. In the event of a power outage or other dangerous development, having an extra pair of hands and a friendly support system with you will come in handy.


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