man in wheelchair using exercise machine

Home Exercise 

All of us need exercise of some kind. As many of us find the prospect daunting, it's really crucial to find a way to do it. At stake, are bone loss, arthritis pain, circulation and pulmonary disorders, cardiac disease, and further limitations on flexibility and range of motion.

The good news is that now more ever, we have access to online videos, discussion forums and a wide range of fitness equipment, including machines designed for home use. Exercising also starts feeling good once you find the right kind.

The National Center for Physical Activity and Disability (NCPAD) can steer you to adaptive programs and equipment appropriate for your individual needs. NCPAD also lists related articles, and demonstration videos on their vast database.  Call to talk to one of NCPADs information specialists: (800) 900-8086. The organization was created expressly for providing access to fitness for people with disabilities.

Be sure to check out their amazing video section (click here) covering balance training, inclusive fitness, how tos, sports and recreation, wheelchair softball, theraband exercises and more!

One more option for working out at home is to locate an adaptive or seated exercise program on public television and record the program for future sessions. Try to exercise with other people, good music, or a good TV program to distract you from the effort.

For more on getting stronger, click here for Strength Training with a Disability from Spark People.  They also have 4 Workouts for people with Limited Mobility or 10 Warm Weather Activities for People with Limited Mobility. They also have discussion forums and blogs to help you get started and stay motivated.

Here are 10 Adaptive Disability Fitness Equipment Recommendations by Devon Palermo, Adaptive Fitness Specialist.  Included are links to each item;

  1. UBE or arm cycle used to warm up and loosen your shoulder joints, improve circulation and increase your heart rate. 
  2. Gripping gloves/wheelchair push gloves are great for those with impaired hand movement or strength. Learn more about gloves here. View a variety here.
  3. Cuff weights/dumbbells will add resistance to movement.  Find cuff weights here.
  4. Theraband is great for resistive exercise and comes in a variety of resistances.  Click here.
  5. Medicine ball with or without handles can be used for core strenth, balance, coordination and overall upper extremity strengthening.
  6. Gymboss timer or boxing fitness timer works great for interval training.
  7. Heavy bag with stand/Speed bag: The bag can be used in a wheelchair or standing.  Great for trunk balance, endurance or challenging range of motion.
  8. Vitaglide works on strength and cardiovascular endurance.
  9. Total Gym XLS is good for working on weight bearing in gravity lessened positions as well as an upper body, back and trunk work out. 
  10. FES bike, formerly only seen in rehab settings, is pricey.  This bike uses electrodes to assist the cycler in in using legs, arms or both. 



Access to Recreation 
Access to Recreation offers equipment for all types of adaptive sports, including exercise equipment for home use. (Click the Fitness Equipment section on the left on their website.)  he above Web page features the Bounce Back, great for aerobic exercise and pumping the lymphatic system, the Bike, placed on a tabletop and used for upper body work, and the McClain Wheelchair Roller for building strength and stamina, plus many other fitness machines. Check them out!


S&S Worldwide
S&S Worldwide sells many different items for leisure and recreation, including fitness and exercise machines like steppers, chin up bars, exercise bikes, and rowing machines.


Saratoga Exercise Cycles
Rand Scot, Inc. produces exercise equipment for persons with disabilities.  The original cycle was developed by Al DeGraff, a quadriplegic and his occupational therapist wife.


SCI FIT (Scientific Solutions for Fitness)
Carries treadmills, recumbent steppers, upper body cardio bikes, lower body cardio bikes, ellipticals and more. 


The Uppertone (Unassisted Muscle Strengthening System for Quadriplegics)
The UPPERTONE was designed and introduced in 1990 by a C4-C5 quadriplegic. It allows people with C4-C5 and below quadriplegia (tetraplegia) due to spinal cord injury to do all the necessary upper body exercises necessary for rehabilitation and maintenance, without any assistance. Indeed they can make all the adjustments, including resistance, without handgrip strength, cuffs, or assistance. Call (800) 468-8679 for information and pricing.


Additional Resources

Disability Fitness (Fitness Handbook for those living with Stroke, Spinal cord injury, Amputation or as Seniors) by Adaptive Fitness Specialist, Devon Palermo
This is a comprehensive resource guide targeting self-assessment, nutrition, program design and functional adaptive exercises designed to motivate you. 


Flaghouse provides thousands of products for consumers as well as recreationaltherapists. Customer service representatives guide you to desired equipment.


Aquatic Resources Network
Aquatic exercise equipment, how-to articles, books, research, pool and program locations, and information for therapists.