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Keeping fit in self-isolation

Disability consultant Helen Dolphin explains how she’s exercising at home during the current Government lockdown. Helen’s favourite exercise routines include a HIIT workout for wheelchair users and seated aerobics, read more here.


For the last few weeks, like many people, I’ve been living in self-isolation. I’m usually quite an active person, I love going swimming and taking my dog on long walks in my wheelchair, so having to stay indoors because of the coronavirus has come as a bit of a shock. However, being stuck indoors shouldn’t stop you from doing any exercise and I’ve found a number of exercise videos on YouTube, some of which are aimed specifically at disabled people.

Joe Wicks

In my house we try to start every weekday morning with PE with Joe Wicks which is streamed live on YouTube. My three-year-old jumps up and down and I attempt to do the exercises from a seated position. I’m clearly doing them a bit differently to Joe, but the exercises get my heart beating and I find it is a good way to start the day. There is usually a mixture of jumps, kicks and sit ups. If you fancy something a little less energetic Joe also does a 10 minute chair workout aimed at older people but this still relies on you being able to stand up and down.

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Click here to watch Joe Wick’s chair workout

Move with MS

Another more gentle exercise routine is the Move with MS introduction and gentle warm up exercises. In this YouTube video, Dom Thorpe who is a specialist in exercise for disabled people, takes two people living with MS through a series of gentle warm up exercises designed to help stimulate muscle movement. It may be described as gentle, but it still made my arms ache afterwards.

Click here to watch the Move with MS workout

Wheelchair HIIT Workout

If you want something that burns fat but doesn’t take too long then I’d give the YouTube video ’20 minute fat burn HIIT workout for wheelchair users’ by Adapt to perform a go . In this video, Ben Clark who’s a wheelchair user, takes you through several high intensity exercises, including boxing moves and arm lifts. He uses weights designed for tetraplegics called ‘Active Hands’ but if you can grip, and don’t have weights, then tins of beans would work just as well. As a double hand amputee, I have weights that I can strap on with Velcro. With a lot of these videos it’s about adapting them to suit you and your disability.

Click here to watch the HIIT workout

Seated aerobics

Another high intensity cardiovascular workout which doesn’t require any equipment is Lisa Ericson’s seated aerobic workout. This video takes about an hour to do but by the end of it you will feel like you’ve done some exercise. Do not be distracted by the 80’s style leotards and sweat bands that the people doing the workout are wearing, the exercises are actually quite good. There is also a lady at the front of the screen doing a low intensity demonstration of every exercise available and a number of the people taking part are wheelchair users. Of all the videos I tried this one made me sweat the most.

Click here to watch the aerobic workout

Upper Body

The final video I tested out was Ashley Freeman’s 15 minute seated upper body workout. Ashley is a personal trainer and decided to put some exercises together for disabled people after sitting next to a wheelchair user on a plane. This routine certainly makes your arms feel tired. You will need hand weights or tins of beans to do the exercises.

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Click here for the upper body workout

Radio 5 Live

These are just a few of the videos available on YouTube that I tested out but there are loads more. If you search for wheelchair exercises, or chair exercises, you will see everything available. However, if you don’t have access to YouTube then you could try out the Radio 5 Live podcast called 10 Today. This is an exercise programme from Sport England designed for older people which is 10 minutes of physical activity. These activities can all be done either sitting or standing. I did find it harder to follow as there is nobody to watch but they do explain the exercises quite well.

I hope these suggestions will give you some ideas to get moving. Even if you don’t normally do any exercise, I’m sure you’ll find that doing an exercise video will lift your spirits, and you might find it becomes part of your daily routine, even after this period of isolation.

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