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How long should you sit in a wheelchair?

How long should you sit in a wheelchair

According to health experts, sitting is the new smoking. Since the negative effects of being inactive is comparable to smoking and obesity, wheelchair users who prefer to sit in their wheelchairs most of the time are at risk. This is the reason why some engage in wheelchair basketball, seated cardio aerobics, and other activities that could provide them with a full-body workout.

Gilani Engineering, a Sydney-based mobility specialist encourages its wheelchair users clientele to still be active and be informed of the negative effects of prolonged sitting.

Long-term effects of wheelchair use

Extended periods of sitting in a wheelchair can have several negative health effects, including:

1. Pressure sores

Older people, bedridden, and manual and electric wheelchair users are prone to pressure sores. These are damaged skin and tissues because of constant pressure or friction. Aside from frequently changing sitting positions, wheelchair users can also avoid developing these skin conditions by using a chair with sufficient support.

2. Muscle issues

Since their muscles have little to no movement, wheelchair users often suffer from back, hip, and shoulder pain. Wheelchair users in spite of their immobility are encouraged to have a physical therapist or a caregiver who could help them exercise their muscles and joints.

3. Poor heart health

Wheelchair users also often have poor cardiovascular health because of immobility. Some develop heart problems because of reduced blood flow and muscle activity while others’ cardiovascular problems worsen because of the inactivity.

4. Respiratory problems

Without any activity, our lungs are also not getting the workout it need. Exercising is one of the ways we could increase our lung capacity, which is one of the respiratory problems of wheelchair users. Aside from decreased lung capacity, disabled people are also prone to lung infections and other pulmonary disorders.

5. Digestive irregularities

Extended durations of sitting can also cause digestive irregularities. As such, gastrointestinal issues including constipation and stomach ache because of indigestion may occur.

6. Skin complications

In addition to bed sores, prolonged sitting can also cause friction burns, skin irritation, and dry skin especially if hygiene and regular skin care are neglected.

7. Psychological effects

Aside from physical effects, being confined in a wheelchair can also often result in psychological issues with the user suffering from mental health problems. Because of accessibility issues, wheelchair users are sometimes not able to participate in any social gatherings leaving them feeling isolated and alone. 

8. Obesity 

Wheelchair users tend to gain weight because of being immobile. Once they start gaining weight, the likelihood of developing conditions related to metabolism like diabetes is also high. To avoid being diabetic, disabled people are recommended to participate in any activity that could help control their blood sugar.

Importance of regular movement and weight shifting

Regular movement and weight shifting is important to combat the long-term effects of sitting in a wheelchair. People who rely on wheelchairs for mobility are advised to engage in any exercise or workout for stronger muscles and bones, and better blood circulation. Leading an active lifestyle will also prevent any respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic problems. 

How long should you sit in a wheelchair?

Proper posture and pressure relief techniques

To guarantee long term comfort, wheelchair users need to learn proper posture (or wear posture corrector for appropriate support) and pressure relief techniques. Having proper posture even if confined in a wheelchair improves digestive and respiratory health while avoiding pain because of joint and muscle problems.

Furthermore, by switching positions often and using specialized cushions, help in distributing pressure throughout the body.


Is it good to sit in a wheelchair all day? 

No. Wheelchair users are only allowed a maximum of 4 hours daily because sitting beyond these recommended hours can lead to health complications.

Do people in wheelchairs get tired of sitting? 

Yes. Wheelchair users do feel tired from prolonged sitting. Some prefer to stay in their wheelchairs during their waking hours which can be for 16-18 hours. Seating immobile during these hours can wear them out both physically and mentally.

How long can you use a wheelchair?

You can only use a wheelchair for a maximum of 4 hours daily.