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How Long Should You Sit in a Wheelchair

A wheelchair user woman wearing red blazer working on a laptop.
Samyak Lalit
Samyak Lalit | November 8, 2022 (Last update: November 8, 2022)

Samyak Lalit is an author and disability rights activist. He is a polio survivor and the founder of projects like Kavita Kosh, Gadya Kosh, TechWelkin, WeCapable, Dashamlav and Viklangta Dot Com. Website:

Many full-time wheelchair users spend almost all their waking hours sitting in their wheelchairs. These waking hours can very well be approximately around 16-18 hours a day. This is harmful. This is dangerous.

You might have heard statements like ‘sitting is the new smoking’. You might have also read the research reports proving that prolonged sitting gestures can be dangerous to human health just like smoking and obesity. And, you might also have ignored that information because you don’t have any option but to sit in a wheelchair. But, this is not something that should be ignored at any cost.

If you are someone in a wheelchair you must know how much time you should sit in your wheelchair so that you don’t mess up your overall health.

Why do People Spend Very Long Hours in Wheelchair?

Though the recommended sitting stretch on a wheelchair is 2 to a maximum of 4 hours, a huge chunk of wheelchair users sits in their wheelchair for their entire waking hours. These waking hours can be approximated to around 16-18 hours.

The reason for this prolonged sitting differs from person to person. Some wheelchair users may not have the capacity to shift themselves from their wheelchair to another surface. And, they might not have someone to help them shift frequently. Some people may prefer to stay in their wheelchairs as it gives them the feeling of independence. Someone might be too busy with their work and a social life that they don’t bother to shift even when they can manage themselves.

There can’t be one perfect answer to why people sit in their wheelchairs for such a long stretch of time but regardless of the reason prolonged sitting puts wheelchair users at risk of developing serious health complications.

What Happens When Someone Sits in a Wheelchair for Long Hours?

Sitting in a wheelchair for long hours attracts all the ill-effects prolonged sitting has on the human body, including –

  • Excess boy fat around the waist
  • High blood sugar
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Unhealthy levels of cholesterol
  • Significantly reduced lung capacity
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Varicose Veins
  • Lower back pain
  • Stiffness in neck and shoulder
  • Increased risk of stress and anxiety

In addition to these, wheelchair users are at other health risks too if they sit in the same position for these long hours. The risks include –

  • Pressure sores
  • Muscles spasm
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Osteoporosis
  • Degraded body posture (permanent damages like kyphosis, scoliosis, rotoscoliosis, etc.)

How to Minimize the Risks Related to Prolonged Sitting in a Wheelchair

When you know long hours of sitting in your wheelchair is not good for your health, your first preference should be to reduce these long hours. If it is possible, you should try and shift from your chair every 3-4 hours. When you cannot stand you can choose the next best option – lie on your back. A quick 10-minutes lying break every few hours is the best thing you can do.

But, if that’s not possible, you should try some other ways to mitigate the risks and hazards of prolonged sitting but never do the blunder of ignoring the fact that long sitting hours can take a toll on your overall health. Allow us to give you a few examples of what can be done to reduce the ill effects of a long stretch of sitting.

Change posture more often

Try changing posture as frequently as you can. Even when you are not shifting away from your wheelchair you should try and change your posture a little bit. This won’t be as effective as lying down but you can at least prevent pressure sores when you frequently change posture. This should be done at least every 30 minutes.

Recline on your wheelchair

If you need to be in your wheelchair for your entire waking hours, for any reason, you may want to swap your regular wheelchair with a reclining wheelchair. This will allow you to give rest to your body and prevent back ache.

Do some intermittent exercises

When you have to sit for long hours in your wheelchair without frequent breaks, you should consider including intermittent exercises in your daily routine. You can’t afford just a few reps done during the morning exercise session. There are many exercises that can be done sitting in a wheelchair.

Use the citation below to add this article to your bibliography

"How Long Should You Sit in a Wheelchair." Web. June 25, 2024. <>, "How Long Should You Sit in a Wheelchair." Accessed June 25, 2024.

"How Long Should You Sit in a Wheelchair." (n.d.). Retrieved June 25, 2024 from


One response to “How Long Should You Sit in a Wheelchair”

  1. Avatar Tyson says:

    This is informative and highly appreciated.

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