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How Many Calories Do You Burn While Pushing a Wheelchair?

An active wheelchair user.
Samyak Lalit
Samyak Lalit | November 17, 2022 (Last update: January 28, 2023)

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:

Whether you are into healthy eating or losing weight, no discussion can start or conclude without talking about calories. If you want to lose weight, you need to burn calories. If you want to pay attention to your diet, you need to count your calorie intake. Now, technology has blessed us with gadgets and applications that give us information about the calories we burn with activities like walking, jogging, and learning. But, what about people in a wheelchair? How do we calculate the calories we burn each day propelling our wheelchair?

If you have been in a wheelchair for long enough, you must have searched for ways to count your calorie consumption. Unfortunately, the fitness bands, smartwatches, and mobile applications have yet not been developed in such a way that they can count you’re the calories you burn while propelling your manual wheelchair.

We know how important this may seem at times, especially when you are trying to get into shape by adopting lifestyle changes. So, here we are with all the (currently available) information a wheelchair user needs to count their calorie loss while propelling their wheelchair.

What Does Research Tell?

A research in this regard was conducted almost a decade back by the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. The research focused on counting the calorie cost of various physical activities done by a person in a manual wheelchair.

The key highlight of this scientific study revealed that when a person in a wheelchair pushes her wheelchair on a flat surface at the speed of 2 mph, she burns 120 calories in half an hour. A person in a motorized wheelchair loses only 1/3rd of the said amount of calories.

In addition to this, the published research paper listed a few other activities with their caloric burn. It should be noted that these results came from a study based on 160-pound adults in 30 minutes time-frame.

  • Sitting, watching TV burns 40 calories
  • Dusting burns 65 calories
  • Table Tennis burns 80 calories
  • Vacuuming burns 98 calories
  • Basketball (shooting baskets) burns 116 calories
  • Tennis burns 149 calories
  • Basketball (gameplay) burns 221 calories
  • Nordic sit skiing burns 428 calories

Counting Your Calorie Burn While Wheeling

As mentioned earlier, no application or gadget provides us the facility to track the loss of calories while pushing our wheelchair. An activity or fitness tracker called ‘’ has a guideline to help us convert the activity of pushing a wheelchair into footsteps thus estimating our caloric burn. This guideline is based on the research discussed above.

The guideline says that based on the research, we assume that an adult burns 240 calories in an hour while pushing themselves in their manual wheelchair. And, based on the USDA chart it is believed that a moderate walker burns 280 calories in an hour. So, when wheelchair propelling effort is converted to walking it comes down to 85.71%.

In a nutshell, a person pushing herself in a wheelchair for 1 mile can assume that she walked 1714 steps. It is assumed that a person burns 0.04 calories in every step.

After converting our wheelchair pushing efforts into footstep counts we can easily find the estimated amount of calories we burn in a day propelling our wheelchair.

Factors Affecting the Rate of Caloric Burn while Wheeling

We find it important to tell you that the above calculation is just indicative information. The actual calorie burn depends on myriads of factors like

  • Weight of the person
  • Height of the person (which affects the Body Mass Index (BMI))
  • The terrain on which the wheelchair is being pushed
  • Quality and make of the wheelchair
  • The user’s physical strengths and limitations

As there are so many responsible factors, it is not possible to exactly answer the question ‘how many calories do you burn propelling a wheelchair’.

WeCapable Wise Words

Though counting calorie intake and calorie burn seem to be important it is not a mandatory thing. It is more important for you to stay physically active as much as you can rather than counting the caloric burn. We would be glad if this article helped you estimate your average caloric cost for your daily activities. But, if you still find it difficult, then just don’t worry about it. Your body loses calories even if you don’t count. So, eat healthily and in moderation, and make sure to stay physically active every day as much as you can.

Use the citation below to add this article to your bibliography

"How Many Calories Do You Burn While Pushing a Wheelchair?." Web. April 23, 2024. <>, "How Many Calories Do You Burn While Pushing a Wheelchair?." Accessed April 23, 2024.

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