Unable to Exercise, Unable to Lose Weight?

Whether you’re unable to exercise because of your weight or you’re gaining weight because you’re physically unable to exercise, don’t think you’re unable to lose weight.

Weight loss is possible even if you're in a wheelchair or confined to a bed!

Weight loss is possible even if you’re in a wheelchair or confined to a bed!

You can lose weight without exercise.

Here’s why:

The majority of the calories your body burns everyday are to keep you alive. Most of your calories get used circulating your blood, regulating your body temperature and breathing. In other words, you can create a calorie deficit, necessary for weight loss, without having to increase the calories your body uses by adding exercise to your weight loss formula. You can reduce your calories but still consume enough to ensure that you will get good nutrition and not have to starve to lose weight. Of course, smart food choices will give you both better nutrition and more food for your calories!

According to the Mayo Clinic, a 40 year old man with an inactive lifestyle, with a height of 6 feet, and a weight of 200 pounds needs 2350 calories per day to maintain body weight and stay alive.

A 40 year old woman with an inactive lifestyle, with a height of 5 ft. 5 inches, and a weight of 150 pounds needs 1700 calories per day to maintain body weight and stay alive.

These are baseline numbers. If you are younger or older, weigh more or less, are taller or shorter, are active to a greater degree than represented in the formula, your calorie per day requirements will be different.

You probably have heard the benefits of exercise in regards to weight loss progress, but the key word is “benefits.”

That means exercise enhances weight loss but isn’t necessary to enable you to lose weight.

Without exercising you will have to be a careful to adhere to your food plan a little closer and your progress may be slower. Another key word is “may.” Adherence to your food plan makes the bigger difference in how well you progress towards your goal.

A program, such as the Weight Watchers program can help you determine how much to eat to allow you to lose weight and get the necessary nourishment and calories from your food. Your daily calories should be calculated based on your current weight, your age, and your gender. If you were able to participate in physical activity you would be able to add extra calories which might provide a little more satisfaction with your weight loss plan.

Never say, “Never!”

Even if you’re very large or wheelchair bound, you may be able to increase your physical activity and enjoy the benefits.

Exercise, or physical activity isn’t only for people with full mobility.

Injury, disability, illness, or weight problems can all be responsible for making it difficult for you to move, but you might be surprised to find out that you can still participate in suitable and beneficial forms of physical activity.  It’s worth finding out what you can do rather than believe you can’t do anything at all. Before starting any physical activity program you should check with your doctor to ensure that increased physical activity is safe.

Exercise is proven to have a mood-boosting effect. A good mood enhances your spirit, your determination, and your tenacity. In addition,  exercise can ease depression, relieve stress and anxiety. You might enjoy enhanced self-esteem, and an improve outlook on life. All of those things are huge motivators to keep working towards your weight goal. Feeling good in your body and mind makes you want to do more good for your body!

You might have to rethink your definition of exercise, especially if you were once a very physically active person and now have mobility issues. It’s easy to decide that if you can’t be running or working out in the gym, you have to accept you are unable to do nothing at all. The reality is you can do all three kinds – each equally important – of exercise.

HELPGUIDE.org offers this great suggestion.

What types of exercise are possible with limited mobility?

If you have the ability to move any part of your body however slightly, you can "exercise."

If you have the ability to move any part of your body however slightly, you can “exercise.”

It’s important to remember that any type of exercise will offer health benefits. Mobility issues inevitably make some types of exercise easier than others, but no matter your physical situation, you should aim to incorporate three different types of exercise into your routines:

  • Cardiovascular exercises that raise your heart rate and increase your endurance. These can include walking, running, cycling, dancing, tennis, swimming, water aerobics, or “aquajogging”. Many people with mobility issues find exercising in water especially beneficial as it supports the body and reduces the risk of muscle or joint discomfort. Even if you’re confined to a chair or wheelchair, it’s still possible to perform cardiovascular exercise.
  • Strength training exercises involve using weights or other resistance to build muscle and bone mass, improve balance, and prevent falls. If you have limited mobility in your legs, your focus will be on upper body strength training. Similarly, if you have a shoulder injury, for example, your focus will be more on strength training your legs and abs.
  • Flexibility exercises help enhance your range of motion, prevent injury, and reduce pain and stiffness. These may include stretching exercises and yoga. Even if you have limited mobility in your legs, for example, you may still benefit from stretches and flexibility exercises to prevent or delay further muscle atrophy.

I’ve blogged about excuses before. Your barrier to exercise may be more an attitude barrier than a physical barrier. You might have an excuse that’s stopping you. Excuses are things we say to ourselves to stop us from doing what we really don’t want to do in the first place. To be sure it’s not your head, rather than your body, stopping you from getting any physical activity, ask yourself a few questions.

  • Do I associate exercise with anything negative?
  • Do I think of exercise as boring?
  • Am I afraid I might hurt myself?
  • Do I think I’m a klutz and exercise will only make me feel more klutzy and uncoordinated?

If the answer is yes to any of these things, work on changing your attitude. There are fun exercises you can do while seated using a video game console. If you’re afraid of hurting yourself consider hiring a personal trainer (many will travel to you, no need to go to a gym) to learn how to do low risk exercises correctly so that you won’t hurt yourself. Personal trainers are also great for matching your activities to your skill and coordination level and help you build confidence.

While I enthusiastically recommend increasing your physical activity if at all possible, I want to emphasize that weight loss without exercise is possible.

You don't have to become a wheelchair athlete to successfully reach your weight loss goal, but you could find that you would like to be one!

You don’t have to become a wheelchair athlete to successfully reach your weight loss goal, but you could find that you would like to be one!

If you want to lose weight you can do it without exercising!

Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is the general manager of Weight Watchers of Maine. She is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. Her experience with her own weight management journey and raising girls has given her insight into the struggles families face with weight, healthy body image, food and physical activity. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news for more than ten years and appears monthly as a guest on FOX network morning program Good Day Maine.