Maintaining a healthy weight is difficult enough for most without the limitations imposed by having limited mobility. Whether you have a permanent physical disability, suffer from chronic pain or are in a period of recovery from surgery or an injury it is still possible to keep fit and even achieve weight loss.
Remember to consult your GP or healthcare professional before beginning a new diet or exercise plan or if you feel discomfort following any activity.
The premise of most diets is the same: eat less and move more. So when your movement is restricted, it’s especially important to ensure you aren’t consuming more calories than you burn. Often portion sizes are the problem; weighing out portions for meals or using healthy portion plates can help to resolve this problem.
Following complicated knee surgery, I began using the MyFitnessPal app. It can calculate the number of daily calories you should be consuming based on how active you are, your current weight, and how quickly you want to lose weight. Setting it to ‘sedentary’ will enable you to gauge exactly how many calories you should be consuming to lose – or maintain – your weight. Keeping a food diary has been proven as an effective weight-loss technique and the app encourages you to record your food intake and levels of exercise so that you are able to keep on track. You can monitor your progress, too, and there’s a forum for support. There’s nothing quite like seeing the graph plotting the downward trajectory of your BMI!
Little and Often
Short bursts of exercise really do add up: there’s no law that says you have to exercise for thirty-plus minutes at a time and often, shorter and more intense exertion can be more effective than a longer period lacking in intensity. Telling yourself you only have to maintain exertion for thirty seconds or a minute at a time is an achievable goal for most; listen to your body and you’ll feel the effects in no time. The secret is to keep active throughout the day.
So next time you’re making a cup of tea, consider lifting tins of beans or water bottles while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil; do some upper body exercises whilst brushing your teeth and make the most of every advert break during your favourite television shows by seeing them as an opportunity to get moving. It really is possible to sneak activity into almost any aspect of daily life.
If are able to get to your local swimming pool – or you’re lucky enough to have your own, exercising in water can be especially beneficial for those with limited mobility. The water takes your weight, allowing even those who cannot walk very far on land to stretch their legs. Various floats are available to aid with pool exercises and the water creates resistance, maximising the calorie-burn.
Many public pools offer beginner’s exercise classes, too, which are more accessible for those with physical impairments.
Take a Seat
Chair exercises can be incredibly effective for weight loss and fitness.
Here are some of my favourites:
Arms Up: sitting in a chair and using light weights (less than 3kg), cans of beans or water bottles in each hand, slowly lift both arms up above your head, exhaling as you do so. Inhale and slowly lower your arms back to your sides. Repeat between five and fifteen times. Vary the move by starting with your hands in front of your heart and opening your arms out horizontally.
Fighting Fit: sitting in a chair, holding weights (as above) in front of you with your elbows bent, take turns to extend each arm fully, as if punching something directly in front of you. Exhale as you punch and repeat five to fifteen times for each arm. This is a cardio move, so the quicker you ‘punch’ the harder you’ll work.
Chest Slides: sitting on a chair, back straight, practise moving your ribs from side to side in a sliding motion. Then try moving just your chest (your hips should be still) up and down and in big, sweeping circles. Repeat each move five to fifteen times.
Hula: sitting in a chair or on a stability ball, use pilates rings or small hula hoops on your wrists as you make circles with your wrists. Add a hoop to your waist/ hips and practise making circles and figures of eight.
Chair Dancing: sitting in a chair, put on your favourite music and move EVERY part of you that you can move.
Roller Disco: sit on a chair that has wheels or castors in an area clear of obstacles. Play your favourite music and propel yourself in different directions, using both arms and legs. Build from 30 seconds of continuous movement to however long you can keep going for.
Keep an Eye on the Goal
For best results be clear in your own mind what you want to achieve and why it's important to you. We all know that maintaining a healthy weight reduces the risk of many health problems and that regular exercise has psychological as well as physiological benefits - it's been proven to lift mood, aid sleep and increase energy levels - but ultimately you need to want to make a change to your lifestyle or you'll just hate every minute and descend into a negative spiral of self-loathing.