How to lose weight when you can't use your legs to exercise

Written by autumn glenister
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How to lose weight when you can't use your legs to exercise
Losing weight in a wheelchair is achievable. (tape measure image by Christopher Hall from

Losing weight if you cannot use your legs may seem daunting but, with the right exercise program and diet, you can do it and decrease your risk of strokes, coronary artery disease and diabetes, according to the American Heart Association. In fact, the University of Iowa reports that physical activity in people with disabilities can even reduce appetite, which may make it easier to diet. Some of the ways wheelchair users tone up include sitting push-ups, sports and reducing their calorie intake.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Specialist scales for people in wheelchairs

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  1. 1

    Propel yourself backward to stretch your shoulders and upper body. The University of Iowa explains stretching can decrease the chance of injury during exercise.

  2. 2

    Lift your body out of the seat of the wheelchair with your hands, using the armrest. Then lower yourself back down. This is a sitting push-up. Repeat periodically throughout the day.

  3. 3

    Lift weights. You might first need to increase your upper body strength by doing sitting push-ups.

  4. 4

    Practice sports such as wheelchair basketball. Other disciplines adapted for people in wheelchairs include tennis and football.

  5. 5

    Exercise moderately for at least 30 minutes every day or do 20 minutes of high-energy exercise such as wheelchair basketball.

  1. 1

    Eat less. Work out how many calories you eat a day on average by looking at the nutritional information on the packaging of your food. People who live a sedentary lifestyle but are not in wheelchairs are advised by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to eat 1,800 calories a day if they are female and 2,200 if they are male. To lose weight, the government recommends they reduce their energy consumption by 500 calories.

    However, wheelchair users normally need fewer calories than people not in wheelchairs and might need to reduce their intake further. The amount of energy each person needs is individual and dependent on many factors. A wheelchair basketball player, for example, may need more calories than a wheelchair user who does not engage in much physical activity. If you find after a few weeks that you have not lost weight, cut back slightly until you find a level where the pounds are dropping off but you do not feel too hungry.

  2. 2

    Purchase specialist scales for people in wheelchairs and weigh yourself regularly. Calculate the weight of the chair separately then subtract it from your result.

  3. 3

    Treat yourself. This makes the diet less boring and rewards you for all your hard work.

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