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I was huffing and puffing going up the stairs last week, and realized that my cardiorespiratory fitness is taking a toll from not participating in any aerobic activities of late. Of course, I have no shortage of excuses…I’m very busy…my knees hurt (they do!)…etc. It got me wondering about the children and youth with disabilities we work with.

The CDC reported that in 2012 only about 2 out of 5 US youth aged 12-15 years have adequate levels of cardiorespiratory fitness. This is a decrease from 1999-2000 where ~1 out of 2 have adequate fitness levels. Breaking it down by gender, less girls are fit (1 out of 3) compared to boys (1 out of 2).

Not surprisingly, children with disabilities often have participation restrictions that result in lower fitness levels and higher obesity rates than peers (Murphy & Carbone, 2008). Access to community fitness programs and facilities is also an issue. In a survey of 61 fitness programs and facilities in Canada, 1 out of 4 reported lack of wheelchair accessibility, and only 1 out of 10 required their staff to have training to support individuals with disabilities (Wiart et al, 2015).

The APPT Fact Sheet on fitness and wellness recommends aerobic exercises should be gradually increased from:

  • From 2 to 4 or more days per week
  • From 20 minutes to 40 minutes per session, as tolerated

Hmmmm…is that achievable with our children and youth with disabilities? Perhaps, easier for children with milder disabilities who can walk and run. How about children/youth who cannot walk, or whose ability to walk and stand are limited?

This behooves us to be creative in our approach. The more we can encourage movement in the school and at home, the more we can achieve the above amount of aerobic activities. Luckily, technology has brought us online videos, and individuals or groups all over the world who are interested in helping out by creating free seated exercise videos.

Searching for Seated Exercise Videos

On to my hunt to find the best seated exercise videos for kids. I had 3 criteria:

  • Good quality videos that can easily be heard, viewed and followed
    • Yes, there are a lot of poor quality videos out there, or videos that were shot on weird angles making it hard to follow the routine
  • Kid/youth-friendly
    • Seated kid exercise videos that satisfy the quality criteria are virtually non-existent
    • I settled for videos of younger adults that children and youth may identify with; or videos with a more youthful vibe (very subjectively done – though I have to tell you, I eliminated 2 videos from the 80s after a good chuckle in expense of the leotards, headbands and wristbands)
    • That the videos feature adults may actually make it appealing to older students, who are at risk of complications from decreased physical activity
  • Free
    • Why pay when you can have it for free, anytime!

I thought this would be a much easier task, but I was wrong. Many did not satisfy the above 3 requirements. However, by sharing my list with you I am spreading and expanding my return on investment (e.g., time our children/youth with disabilities use the videos divided by the time I spent looking for the videos).

My Top 23 Seated Exercise Videos

Presenting my list of seated exercise videos. This will not only save you time searching for them. It will also save you from the embarrassment of what comes up when you look up “chair dance” on Youtube in front of children, families and/or classroom staff.

Note that I did not limit my search to wheelchair exercise videos for a few reasons:

  • That will really limit the number of videos in my list
  • More importantly, I think they are just as useful for our students with milder physical disabilities (i.e., those who are not using wheelchairs)
  • You know what else is a good use for these videos? Yes! Seated classroom exercise routines. As such I included some videos that are as short as 1.5-3 minutes. Perfect for a quick brain break!

Do not leave the children/youth with the videos alone, or at least, not for the first few times. You will have to coach them through modifications of the exercises based on their abilities (e.g., seated leg marching replaced with arm “swinging”; use water bottles in place of dumbbells).

In some cases, I tried to group the workouts according to their use, but do not dwell on the grouping too much. Review the videos, choose your own favorites, and put them to good use.

By the way, you can download the clickable PDF version of the infographic here so that you can save it, share it with your students, their parents, or classroom staff. All you/they need to do is to click on the name of the video on the clickable infographic, and they’ll be linked directly to the videos online.

Let’s start the list…

Basic Cardio Workouts

Easy to follow, nicely filmed cardio workouts

1. Sparkpeople’s Cardio Workout

2. Nestle’s Beginner Chair Exercise

3. Nestle’s Intermediate Chair Exercise

Chair Dancing

Jazz up the workout with dance. All 3 videos are from Fuzion Fitness. No equipment needed.

4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4XW74W9t4o

5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tooue2KCQ4Q

6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d43bXn76lxw

  • I love the setting in this one….the beach!

Chair Zumba

Short routines to use for warming up prior to functional activities, or combined with other videos…or as classroom brain breaks.

7. Dance to “Rain Over Me” – Pitbull featuring Mike Anthony

8. Dance to “Waka Waka” – Shakira

9. Dance to “Glad You Came” – The Wanted

Purely/Mostly Arm Workout

10. Dance to “Dance on the Floor” – J-Lo featuring Pitbull

11. Sparkpeople’s Seated Upper Body Toning Workout:

More Intense Workouts

Makes you feel like you went to the gym. Combined focus on strength and endurance. They all include arm, leg and trunk exercises.

12. Sparkpeople’s Resistance Band Workout

13. Adapt to Perform’s High Intensity Interval Training

14. Seated Wheelchair Workout by Gwee Gym

15. 23-Minute Chair Workout by HASFit

16. 14-Minute Chair Workout by HASFit

17. Chair Exercises by Glucosezone

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSnYWGqtPy8
  • 30 minutes
  • Designed for individuals with diabetes, but really great for anybody
  • Great focus on arm exercises with weights
  • With visuals popping out on either sides with the name of exercise, body part exercised and perceived exertion, among others

18. Super Hero Fitness’ Full Body Chair Workout

Core Workouts

Focused on abdominals and other core muscles.

19. Sparkpeople’s Core Workout

20.Adapt to Perform’s Abs/Core workout

Flexibility Routines

21. Sparkpeople’s Desk Stretches

22. Inclusive Yoga for Individuals with SCI

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FxIbzvdBzA
  • 30 minutes
  • Yoga mat, stretching straps needed
  • Designed for individuals with spinal cord injury, but useful for many
  • Full yoga routine with lots of good stretches
  • Starts in a wheelchair then transferring to a yoga mat

23. Chair Yoga by Glucosezone

That about ends my list. Do you know of other free seated exercise videos that you would recommend to other SeekFreaks?

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