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Tips on Maintaining a Healthy Body Weight for Wheelchair Users

a healthy meal plan is important for maintaining ideal body weight
Samyak Lalit
Samyak Lalit | July 8, 2021 (Last update: July 8, 2021)

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:

Gaining excess weight has become so common that ‘weight loss’ has emerged as an industry… that too a very profitable one. People in a wheelchair are more prone to gaining weight. But, the industry-standard protocols for weight loss are not very beneficial for wheelchair users as they are designed for people who can walk, jog, run and lead an active life. In this article, we are providing tips on losing weight specifically for wheelchair users. But, we are not frequently using the term ‘weight loss’ because our aim should be on maintaining a ‘healthy weight’ rather than just losing weight. Being in a wheelchair does not mean you cannot keep your body in good shape!

Before we jump on the tips for maintaining healthy body weight, let us discuss a few things that you might have in your mind.

Why Should You Pay Attention to Your Weight?

You might think that you are happy the way you are, so why should you bother about your weight. Being happy and comfortable the way you are is fine but one should not ignore their health. Maintaining the right body weight is not about looks but your health. Excess body weight or obesity may put you in the risk zone for many diseases like type 2 diabetes, various heart ailments and some form of cancer as well.

I cannot get my BMI. What should I do?

If you already feel you should do something about your weight, you must have come across the term BMI while searching for weight loss tips. BMI i.e. Body Mass Index requires a person’s weight and height to calculate if the person is underweight, average, overweight or obese. And, it’s tough for most of the wheelchair users to get their right height and weight. If you can’t easily measure your height and weight, you should simply stop bothering about calculating your BMI. You should know that BMI is overrated in the weight loss industry. It can be misleading in many cases.

Tips on Maintaining a Healthy Body Weight for Wheelchair Users

Following are some of the important tips that every wheelchair user should pay attention to:

1. Look at the Quantity of Your Diet

Most of the wheelchair users tend to intake more calories required by their body. It is basically because they take food in the quantity appropriate for their age while their lower body remains inactive. A person who can stand or walk, uses leg muscles that burn a lot of calories. This is not the case with wheelchair users. If you are someone who cannot stand, you use approximately half of your body. So, you need to adjust the amount of calories intake accordingly. An average man needs 2500 calories a day while a woman requires 2000 calories a day. If you are a wheelchair user, you require significantly lesser calories than that.

a healthy meal plan is important for maintaining ideal body weight

2. Don’t Miss the Balance of Your Diet

While you need to decrease your calorie intake, you should not let your diet get out of balance. Taking a balanced diet is imperative. It can become more challenging for you to get all nutrients when you decrease the amount of food you take. You can use vitamin supplements but it will be better if you can maintain the balance of nutrients in your diet itself. Add more fruits and veggies and cut on processed food from your diet plan.

3. Drink Plenty of Water

Keeping yourself hydrated has many health benefits. And, it also helps in shedding extra weight. Drinking a glass of water in the morning helps flush out toxins from the body. You should also try to drink a glass of water before taking your meal. This will make you feel full and you can easily reduce the amount of food you consume.

drinking plenty of water keeps you hydrated and healthy

4. Add Exercise to Your Daily Routine

Whatever is the level of your physical activity, you can add some yoga or exercise to your daily routine. We have covered this topic in some of our older posts. Choose the type of exercise you like best and do it consistently. Any physical activity is better than no activity. So, be active. Try adoptive yoga or other chair exercises. Wheelchair aerobics too are good for losing weight and strengthening muscles. You can also include some activities or sports like swimming, basketball, badminton etc. if you enjoy them. Let your body sweat.

5. Sleep well

Getting a good night’s sleep is important for keeping you healthy. Studies have shown that a person may gain weight due to lack of sleep. So, you should focus on sleeping well at night. Muscle cramps, pain, stiffness or the inability to find a comfortable position may affect the sleep quality of many wheelchair users. You can get a few body pillows to help you sleep comfortably or you can find other solutions as per your specific need. The aim is to get proper 6-8 hours of sleep every night.

6. Stretch Your Body

Don’t confine stretching to your morning exercise routine. You should do some stretching multiple times a day. Stretching your body ensures a good flow of blood to different parts of your body. Stiffness of muscles and joints is very commonly experienced by wheelchair users and stretching is the perfect solution for the problem. When your body is more flexible you can expect a more active life and thus loss of excess weight.

7. Breathe Deeply

Wheelchair users have to sit for long stretches of time and they tend to slump, this automatically lowers their lung capacity thus making their breathing shallower. Shallow breathing can lower the level of oxygen in the body. You should try to consciously breathe deeply. This will increase oxygen in your body which will help in burning extra fat deposited in the body. Apart from this, there are many other health benefits of deep breathing.

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