How To Lose Belly Fat In A Wheelchair? [5 Ways to Remember]

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Wondering how to lose belly fat in a wheelchair? 

Being wheelchair bound certainly makes weight loss more challenging, but there are things you can do to achieve your goals.

When my aunt was unhappy with her excess weight, she reached out for my help in researching and speaking to her physiotherapist about what can be done.

I wanted to share what I learned with you, so you, too, can feel healthier and more confident.

Let’s get started!

5 Ways To Get Rid Of Belly Fat in a Wheelchair

People with disabilities face a higher risk of weight gain as they are not able to do as much physical activity resulting in a lower calorie burn

Carrying too much weight, such as belly fat, can also increase the risk of health problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer. 

All of these are good motivations for anyone, wheelchair users or not, to work on their fitness level.

So let’s take a closer look at ways wheelchair users can get rid of those unwanted belly rolls.

Also, you may check the best lightest foldable electric wheelchairs to upgrade.

1. Reduce Calorie Intake

Senior on a wheelchair eating food

According to the NHS ( United Kingdom’s national health service), “the average man needs around 2,500 calories a day to maintain his bodyweight. The average woman needs around 2,000 calories.” [1]

However, wheelchair users will not need as many calories to maintain their body weight as they use less energy. This can cause weight gain.

Speak to your nutritionist or doctor about the number of calories you should reduce. The amount will depend on your gender, current weight, and level of disability. 

It is important to reduce calorie intake while still maintaining a healthy diet. In other words, you still need to eat a balanced diet.

2. Make Sure You Get Enough Sleep

You may not know, and I certainly didn’t when starting out my research, that sleep has a significant effect on weight gain.

The human body has two main neurotransmitters that control appetite, Ghrelin, and leptin. Ghrelin is what tells you, you are hungry, and leptin is what tells you that you are full. 

Disabled senior getting sleep

According to the Sleep Foundation, “A lack of sleep may affect the body’s regulation of these neurotransmitters. In one study, men who got 4 hours of sleep had increased ghrelin and decreased leptin compared to those who got 10 hours of sleep.” [2]

Not getting enough sleep also affects your metabolism, causes an increase in blood sugar intolerance, and throws your circadian rhythms off. [2]

When you are working towards your weight loss goals, it is important to regulate your sleep by going to bed earlier, getting several hours of sleep, and making sure your room is dark and quiet.

3. Stay Hydrated

Disabled senior drinking water

Everyone, including those that use a wheelchair, needs to drink plenty of water. Water keeps your body functioning well and helps get rid of toxins. 

The recommendations for how much water you should drink per day vary and will depend on if you have other health conditions.

The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine says that you need to consume 2.7 to 3.7 liters of fluids a day (depending on your gender) and that roughly 20% of this will come from the food you eat. [3]

4. Adjust Your Diet and Eating Patterns

Reducing calories isn’t the only diet change you will need to look at. When looking at how to lose weight while in a wheelchair, you need to look specifically at what foods you eat.

The health benefits of making these changes will help everyone, regardless of if they want to lose weight or not.

I’ve broken it down into the three main areas you should look at. It might help to go over a diet plan with your health care providers.

Avoid Processed Foods

Many processed foods are full of ingredients that conflict with weight management goals. They are often high in sugar, fat, sodium, and preservatives. 

While you don’t have to cut these foods out altogether, try to keep them to a minimum.

Some examples include cookies, pizza, deli meat, hot dogs, convenience meals, and protein bars.

Instead of eating deli meats, switch to fresh meats that are considered a lean protein, such as chicken.

This video highlights some of the most popular processes food that you should avoid.

Get Enough Fiber

High-quality soluble fiber foods will help you feel full longer, which will help you resist those cravings to snack too often.

High-fiber healthy foods suggested by the Cleveland Clinic include: [4]

  • Legumes such as chickpeas
  • Barely
  • Lentils
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Almonds
  • Quinoa

Cut Out Sugar

We all know that eating too much sugar is going to make it harder to reach a healthy weight and that it is generally bad for us.

Sugar affects the body’s insulin levels, which triggers it to store fat! So, get rid of as much sugar from your diet as possible.

Unfortunately, this means you will need to get rid of sugary foods. If you have a sweet tooth, this will be difficult. I know I’d struggle without eating chocolate regularly.

Make sure to check labels, you will be surprised how much sugar is hiding in products that appear healthy.

5. Try Suitable Exercises For Wheelchair Users

Senior on a wheelchair doing exercise to lose belly fat

Another important factor when trying to lose belly fat in a wheelchair is exercise. You will need to increase your physical activity so that you burn calories. Wheelchair yoga can also be a good way to burn calories.

While your goal might be a flat stomach, don’t just focus your exercises there. Look for whole body activities that you can include in your exercise routine.

Start off with simple exercises to build up your muscle strength. See if there are any fitness classes in your area that cater to wheelchair users, this will make it more fun and less of a chore.

Also, speak to your healthcare providers about putting together an exercise program to suit you.

Going over all the different exercises for elderly in wheelchairs you can try deserves its own article, so I will save that for another time.

One thing to remember is that you need to commit to regular exercise that includes both cardiovascular exercise and strength training.

But here are a couple to look into: the seated abdominal twist and wheelchair basketball

This is a fun wheelchair workout, check it out.

FAQs

How many calories do wheelchair bound people burn?

Wheelchair-bound people will burn around 300 fewer calories a day than those that don’t use wheelchairs which is 1,600 to 3,000. The amount will depend on your gender, weight, and physical activity level. [5]

How can I lose weight if I have limited mobility?

To lose weight with limited mobility, you need to make diet changes and start an exercise routine suitable to your abilities.

How do you exercise if you are in a wheelchair?

a man doing some wheelchair exercises for seniors in his terrace

There are tons of ways to exercise if you are in a wheelchair, including sitting exercises, strength training, wheelchair basketball or sprinting, netball, and dedicated wheelchair workout routines.

Conclusion

I hope this has helped you see how to lose belly fat in a wheelchair and that is can be done.

The main aspects are relevant to everyone. It is a matter of looking at your lifestyle – food, sleep, and exercise. Make a plan that will help you reach your ideal weight in a healthy way.

If you have any questions, leave a comment. I’d love to hear about your tips and challenges.

A girl is teaching senior to lose belling fat on a wheelchair

So are you ready to lose belly fat in a wheelchair? Don’t forget to share your progress with us!

Resources

1. How to lose weight in a wheelchair [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2021. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/managing-your-weight/how-to-lose-weight-in-a-wheelchair/

2. Why Is Sleep So Important to Weight Loss? [Internet]. Sleep Foundation. 2020. Available from: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-health/weight-loss-and-sleep

3. Water: How much should you drink every day? [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. 2020. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256

4. 11 Best High-Fiber Foods [Internet]. Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic. 2020. Available from: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/11-best-high-fiber-foods/

5. Malaise Wheelchair Fitness – How Many Calories Do You Need? [Internet]. Malaise Wheelchair Fitness. [cited 2022 Sep 15]. Available from: https://www.malaisewheelchairfitness.com/nutrition/2017/3/27/how-many-calories-do-you-need

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