Confinement To A Wheelchair Doesn’t Mean You Have To Be Overweight

Losing weight can be a challenge for anyone, but if you are in a wheelchair and limited in your movements, weight loss can be more difficult – but not impossible -- to achieve. Restricted physical activity doesn't mean you have to be inactive. But it may mean making changes to your diet.


To lose weight, you need to cut back on the number of calories you consume each day. If you use a wheelchair, your daily caloric needs are going to be lower than if you had full mobility. Muscle-wasting diseases and wheelchair use can lead to disuse atrophy. The loss of muscle means you need fewer calories so that you don't gain weight.

Eating fewer calories involves eating smaller portion sizes and cutting fat, which has double the number of calories per gram than carbohydrates and protein. Although you need to fuel your muscles with carbohydrates and fats, when counting calories, restrict your consumption of saturated and trans fats, which aren't good for your heart either. Overall, fat should account for no more than 35 percent of the calories you consume in a day.

Including lots of fruits and vegetables, which have a high water content, in your daily diet makes you feel fuller so that you don't eat as much. Drinking water not only keeps you hydrated but may also keep you from overeating, especially if you are confusing thirst and hunger.


Being in a wheelchair makes it harder to burn calories because of decreased physical activity, but if you have upper body mobility, you can use the muscles in your arms and trunk to burn calories. Exercise within your limits, but consult with your doctor before beginning any regular exercise regimen.

Because muscle burns more calories than fat, it's important not to lose muscle mass. If you can use your arms, perform strengthening exercises by lifting lightweight dumbbells or with the use of resistance bands.

Whether or not you engage in a formal exercise program, it's important to keep on the move. Simply pushing yourself around in a manual wheelchair uses the muscles in your arms and burns calories.

Interactive fitness video game systems offer another option for getting a workout and staying active. Fitness DVDs that feature wheelchair exercise programs, hand cycles, and other specialized exercise equipment also are available for wheelchair users. In some communities, organized wheelchair sports, such as basketball and archery, are offered.

If you can use your upper body, swimming is another aerobic exercise that helps burn calories. Even if you can't use your legs, you can propel yourself forward with your arms.

You can also feign boxing by making a fist with your hands and swinging into the air. Or, you can use a punching bag. Boxing burns calories, provides cardiovascular exercise, and allows you to work out the muscles in your arms, shoulders, trunk, and core – muscles you need to keep strong to push yourself in your wheelchair. Back your wheelchair up against a wall with the punching bag hung in front of you. Adjust the position of the bag for arm length.

For more information, contact Martin Medical Center or a similar location.