Wheelchair Athletics for Everyone

Man in wheelchair holding basketballSince the first Paralympic Games help in Rome in 1960, Paralympic athletes have been rocking the world with their spirit, strength, and endurance. Since then, the Paralympics has grown to include 22 summer events ranging from archery to wheelchair tennis and 6 Winter Paralympics events. One of the great things we can take from watching and reading about the Paralympics is the importance of focusing on our abilities and potential rather than any limitations we might have. Physical fitness is still possible with a disability and participating in athletics is a great way to reduce stress and get a break from our everyday routines. If you are interested in getting involved in wheelchair athletics, here are a few options to consider:

Wheelchair Excursions or Racing

Using a manual wheelchair can be exercise in itself, and many communities have parks with paved trails suitable for wheelchair use. If you haven't gone long distances on you wheelchair in a while, start small and build up distance and speed. If you want to take things to the next level, you might be able to invest in a racing wheelchair and find a local racing club. With training and the encouragement of your fellow athletes, you could build up to participating in a competitive event such as a 5K race or even the Boston Marathon!


Handcycles are specialized cycles which are pedaled by hand. They can be a bit costly, but can offer speed and enjoyment comparable bicycling to anyone with limited use of their legs.

Weightlifting and Krank Cycling Machines

Several popular athletic clubs offer specialized upper-body fitness equipment for wheelchair users. In addition to freeweights and weight machines that can be used from a wheelchair, some clubs offer Krank cycles, which include pedals with varying resistance levels that can be operated with the user's arms to build upper body strength and cardio fitness. 

Swimming and Water Exercise

Some branches of the YMCA and other fitness facilities have wheelchair-accessible pools. Swimming and water exercise can be a great way to stay fit, whether you are doing it on your own, or with a physical therapist.

Wheelchair Tennis and Basketball

In the U.S. there are social and competitive leagues for several wheelchair-related sports such as tennis and basketball. Many offer activities for participants of all ages. These websites provide information on local leagues and how to join:

U.S. Tennis Association Wheelchair Division

National Wheelchair Basketball Association