Wheelie fit: Eating well and staying healthy as a wheelchair user
For those of us with disabilities, getting, and staying, fit and healthy can be extra difficult, especially when there is little information out there for exercises to do sitting down, or the best food to eat when your metabolism isn’t the quickest.
There’s not too much out there for wheelchair users to find their own exercise routine, an important part of staying in shape. Hopefully this article will show that exercise is for people of all abilities, can be fun, and comes with plenty of benefits, too!
Benefits of exercising as a wheelchair user:
- Increase your endurance
- Alleviate muscle/joint pains
- Improve balance
- Prevent injury
- Build muscle/bone mass
- Enhance your range of motion
So, what kind of exercise is good? Why not look for your local wheelchair basketball team, take up wheelchair dancing, or even read our blog on wheelchair yoga?!
For those of us who use wheelchairs, losing weight and/or keeping that weight off can often prove tough as we usually burn fewer calories through exercise as our non-disabled peers. So, maintaining a good diet, a boring as it can often seem, is vitally important.
On the NHS website, Helen Bond, a dietician, says that wheelchair users can find it difficult to gauge how many calories they need to eat. This means they can eat more than they need, resulting in weight gain.
“Wheelchair users are in a very different situation from other adults when it comes to how many calories they need,” she says. “This can be hard to adapt to”.
If you are new to using a wheelchair, you might eat as you did before, but you are using less energy through physical activity, and so you begin to put on weight. If you live with other adults who need more calories than you, you may eat as much as them, and again this will result in weight gain.
“Wheelchair users can also lose muscle in their legs over time. When we have less muscle, we need fewer calories to maintain our bodyweight.”
So, what can we do as wheelchair user to ensure we are eating well and getting all the nutrients we need?
- Eat plenty of fruit and veg
- Plenty of starchy foods – like brown bread, wholewheat pasta and potatoes
- Limit too many dairy products
- Limit too many sweet, sugary things
- Use fatty, red meats as just a treat
- Avoid processed foods whenever possible
- Drink plenty of water, and alcohol only in moderation.
How many calories?
We are often told that, to be healthy, we should limit our calorie intake. For men, this suggested intake is 2500 calories per day, and 2000 for women. However, as wheelchair users often don’t do quite as much daily exercise in general, we often require fewer calories in order to maintain our weight and healthy lifestyle, so need to eat slightly less that our able-bodied peers, or work extra hard at the gym!!
So, enjoy all that this wonderful New Year has to offer. Eat, drink and absolutely be merry. But remember to limit those calories and exercise that little bit harder if you want to stay fit and healthy as a wheelchair user.