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Although physical disabilities can make weight loss challenging, they don't mean that you have to abandon physical fitness altogether. A variety of exercises and lifestyle choices can help all people lose weight. Moreover, physically disabled people can join programs geared to their specific disability that will enable them to exercise in a comfortable, safe, supportive environment. The exercises you can do will vary with your specific disability, so it's important to consult your doctor before beginning a physical fitness routine.
Choose healthy, low-calorie foods that will nourish your body and provide you with energy to exercise. If you are confined to a wheelchair, your daily caloric intake might be slightly lower than the average of 2,000 calories because you move less frequently. To lose weight, you must create a caloric deficit by burning more calories than you consume. For most people, this means cutting calories and exercising. Eliminating sugary snacks and soda is a simple way to slash calories from your diet. Eat healthy, lean proteins such as fish and avoid fried, fatty foods. Get five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables daily and drink plenty of water. Dehydration can make exercise more challenging, particularly if you already face physical challenges.
Ask your doctor or physical therapist about a healthy exercise routine that will not exacerbate any injuries you have. Remember that physical therapy is exercise, so an hour or two per day of physical therapy can help you meet your daily exercise needs.
Seek out leagues and clubs for people with physical disabilities. Wheelchair basketball or racing, for example, is an excellent way to get cardiovascular exercise while making friends with people who have also surmounted physical challenges. Cardiovascular exercise is sustained exercise that elevates your heart rate. Over time, it can lower blood pressure and decrease your risk of cardiovascular problems. For disabled people with mobility problems, cardiovascular exercise can be especially difficult to get, but team sports provide an opportunity to exercise your heart.
Try water aerobics. Water can partially support your weight, making movement easier, and swimming and other water-based activities can help ease the pain that often comes with a sedentary, wheelchair-bound life. Some gyms and community organizations offer water aerobics for people with physical disabilities. If you have any difficulty with movement, you should wear a life jacket while engaging in water aerobics.
Perform total-body strength training. If you are unable to move parts of your body, strengthen individual muscle groups that you can move. For example, try lifting 2- to 5-pound dumbbells with your arms or using ankle weights to gain strength in your legs. As you build strength, you can increase the heft of the weights and the number of reps you perform. Perform these strength-training exercises at least one to three times weekly. Your doctor may advise you to perform specific exercises or to perform them more frequently to prevent muscle atrophy, so consult your doctor before altering your current routine.