Exercise is important for physical and mental health. People with varying levels of physical ability can still participate in sports whether it is just for fun or in competitions. There are many sports that have been adapted for wheelchair users to be able to play and even train as professional athletes if they choose to.
Here are some wheelchair activities to choose from:
Created back in 1970, wheelchair tennis is one of the most popular sports for wheelchair users. It requires practice to get used to controlling your wheelchair with one hand and the tennis racquet in the other, as well as being able to swivel in the seat of the chair quickly. Wheelchair tennis is just as fun to watch whether you are in a wheelchair or able-bodied.
Softball is perfect for team players who might prefer this version of baseball to tennis. The sport does require a specially adapted manual wheelchair to play competitively, but you can play wheelchair softball easily with friends using the adapted rules. Rounders England also offers inclusive rounders at some of their clubs if you would like to play wheelchair rounders.
Basketball is one of the oldest wheelchair sports and has a great following in the UK. It does require a lot of hard work to develop expert use of self propelled wheelchairs for court sports, but once you get the hang of it the sport is well worth it. The angled wheels allow better mobility and speed, but the power and precision are down to the participant. You need to be able to pivot, aim, pass, and score.
Football, also known as soccer in the US, is arguably the most popular sport in the world. It’s only fair that wheelchair users get to join in on the action on the pitch. Wheelchair football is usually played on a basketball court with an oversized football and 5 players on each team. It is a fun and social sport which requires less contact than other sports like rugby or hockey.
If contact sports don’t faze you, then wheelchair rugby could be the tough team sport you’re looking for. This adapted version of rugby actually includes elements of basketball, hockey, and volleyball and is played professionally around the world. The game involves 6 players per team and takes place on a basketball court. The heavy contact sport isn’t for everyone.
Another contact sport for those who like to play a little more rough is wheelchair hockey. Like other adapted sports, this version of hockey is played on a basketball court, and uses a ball instead of a traditional puck. Wheelchair hockey players normally use manual wheelchairs, but some versions of the adapted game of power hockey use electric wheelchairs to play it.
Sometimes called chairing, wheelchair racing is fast becoming a top sport for athletes in wheelchairs. It’s an intensive competitive sport with many different types of races and skills required, plus a special type of wheelchair is required for racing.
There are lots of versions of wheelchair biking, from handcycling to extreme motorsports (not for the faint of heart). Mountain biking in a big four-wheeler with hand-controlled brakes can be a great adrenaline rush, but a manual wheelchair handbike is useful for regular exercise on less rough terrain. It is also a great way of having fun with friends with a range of abilities.
Wheelchair users can also take to the water with adaptive sailing. Boating is a fun hobby if you’re seeking the tranquil freedom of the waves, or you can compete in speed sailing. You can find a sailing club with the facilities to cater to wheelchair users through RYA Sailability. Learn how to sail in a dinghy or yacht, or even try a canoe.
Snowsports are accessible too if you’re a wheelchair user who dreams of hitting the slopes. Adaptive skiing is a very popular winter sport, as are adaptive snowboarding and adaptive snowmobiling. Away from the snow and back on the sea, there is also adaptive water skiing. There are specially-created sitting skis, single skis, dual or tandem skis, and more available.
Though it may sound archaic, archery is a very exciting sport. There are minimal adaptations needed for wheelchair users to be able to shoot. You would have to go through a beginner’s archery course which can last several weeks and costs £30 – £50+ before you could start to participate in archery club competitions, and bear in mind that it is played outdoors on grass.
Fencing also does not require many rule changes in order to be adapted for wheelchair users. It requires a specially adapted wheelchair and body armour to play competitively. Fencing is great for people with fast reflexes and precision for lance strikes.
Cue sports are also easily adaptable for players in wheelchairs. Potting balls and tactical play are possible from a seated or standing position, as long as you stick to the rules of the cue sport you are playing. This could be snooker, American pool, or billiards. Some adapted versions reduce the number of balls and offer support equipment such as rests and weights.
Dance allows people to feel free in their bodies and express their emotions physically to music. There are so many styles of dance out there and the options of solo dancing or dancing with a partner or group. It is a great recreational physical activity for wheelchair users, or you can find a professional dance club and compete with Wheelchair DanceSport.
Fishing is often not seen as a sport, but many anglers consider themselves athletes too. You can go fishing alone or with friends or family, or join an angling club and enter competitions. It can be very relaxing but you also get a thrill when you snag a successful catch. There are also adapted fishing rods and holders that can be attached to lightweight wheelchairs.
Last Updated: 10/06/2020