Weight Loss and Wheelchairs

Mia Vayner lost 275 pounds when she switched from a power to a manual wheelchair.

Mia Vayner lost 275 pounds when she switched from a power to a manual wheelchair.

Pushing a manual chair is a great calorie burner, but it isn’t always practical or even possible. Variables from injury level and sore shoulders to progression of a condition warrant a power chair and/or power assist.

When a long-time manual chair user switches to power or power/assist, the pounds can quickly add up if you don’t adjust your caloric intake.

This happened to a good buddy of mine at community college. A C5-6 quad, he pushed around campus in a manual chair.  In his second year at college he transferred to a power chair, since the manual chair was too slow to be practical. The speed of the power chair greatly improved his campus life, but had an unwanted side effect — he started quickly gaining weight. Fortunately he adjusted his eating habits before he outgrew his pants.

I was reminded of this when I ran across this article of a paraplegic who had battled obesity her entire life, even before her SCI.  She was was using a power chair — the article didn’t say why. In 2009 she hit 540 pounds and decided it was time to do something about her weight. The first thing she did was switch to a manual chair. She lost 50 pounds the first month!

She added a “mile a day push in her chair” and smaller size meal portions to her regime. To date she has lost an additional 275 pounds. Now down to 265 pounds, the weight loss has enabled her to enrich her life, becoming active in judo, swimming two miles every morning, adaptive rock climbing, and she is even thinking about competing in a triathlon.

But that doesn’t mean higher-level SCIs can’t lose weight. I know several power-chair users who have dropped significant amounts of weight through sensible portion control.

The timing of this article is perfect — I’ve noticed my middle-age bulge is pushing my side-guards closer to my wheels. I’m going to take heed, “try” portion control, and take Schatzie on some extra walks. Who knows, maybe getting out on the trail, her wagging tail and friendly demeanor will help me find a date for New Year’s Eve.

Do you have a weight loss, weight management technique?

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  1. Jane Knox says:

    I am in a powerchair because of post-polio and it has saved my arms and shoulders from getting weaker from overworking in the manual chair. I am very active in that I clean my own house, do laundry, drive, shop, and all that. But I cannot lift weights or that kind of thing because of overuse of the arms. I do 45 minutes of yoga every morning. Also, I transfer myself about 50 times a day. But I am gaining weight, which will make it harder to transfer myself if it goes on. So I am reducing portion size, drinking less alcohol, and eating less sugar. Let’s hope it works. Even if it’s slow, I must lose weight.

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