How can I lose weight if my health keeps me from exercising?

The best way to lose weight without being able to exercise is to focus on the amount of calories you consume. Since you are not active, your metabolism will not be as high as usual. That being said, get an estimate of your resting metabolic rate and from there consume fewer calories than what you burn. Be sure not to cut out too many calories that you are starving yourself but try to cut out what you can. Weight loss will be much slower and should be much slower as you still need to feed your body to ensure you have fuel for everyday activities.
Diana K. Blythe, MD

In theory, weight loss is simple. You need to burn more calories than you consume. In other words, calories going out of your body need to be greater than calories going into your body. 

If your health prevents you from exercising, talk to your doctor about cutting your calories. Just by having your heart beat and your lungs breathe, you burn calories. Not being able to exercise does not mean you cannot eat, it simply means you have to eat less.

In addition, your doctor may be able to introduce you to ideas on training that do not fit the stereotypical high impact exercises of which you may be thinking. Many people with chronic disease can participate in low impact activities like yoga, pilates or a specialized personal trainer willing to work with your doctor. Please do not give up on a healthier lifestyle because of a chronic disease.

You can continue to lose weight without engaging in formal exercise. The key is increasing your activity level, even if you don’t engage in formal exercise. Go for walks, when you run errand's park as far away as you can so you have to walk further, take stairs instead of elevators and escalators, do as many of your own household chores as you can. If you combine an increase in activity with a mild caloric restriction this should help you lose weight at a modest rate.  

Kat Barefield, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
The good news for you is twofold: 1) you don’t need traditional exercise to lose weight and 2) “exercise” can be as simple as moving any way you can. Diet, or reducing calories is by far the single most powerful way to lose weight. Once you determine how many calories you burn based on physical statistics and daily activities, you simply need to eat fewer calories than that number. And remember, your Sharecare Move It and Lose It program will calculate your numbers for you.
Studies comparing reducing calories with exercise only yielded the following: the group who reduced calories lost an average of 19.8 pounds in 6 months, while the exercise alone groups lost less than 2 pounds in the same period. So you see you can lose weight without “exercise.”
That said, as long as you can stand and move at any level, you can improve health and boost weight loss because you will burn more calories even if it’s not traditional exercise. In fact standing burns ~1.5 times more calories than sitting for the same time and normal walking or pacing can burn 2-3 times more. For example, if a 175 pound person can stand and/or walk 1.5 hours per day more than before, they can burn an extra 150 calories per day. That translates to a 15-pound weight loss after a year.
Final note, only one single fact determines the rate of weight/fat loss: the average daily calorie deficit. This is defined as the difference between how many calories you burn (no matter how you do it) and how many calories you consume. The body never stops burning calories so even a bedridden person can lose weight. Unfortunately, because they can’t move, they won’t be able to eat much because the more you move, the more you can eat.

No matter what your health is your nutrition will be the determining factor in your weight so if you cannot exercise you can still manage your weight based on what you eat.

It will be very important to log your food so you are more aware of the number of calories you are consuming.  The logging of food will also help you being self accountable to make sure you are consuming the appropriate amount of calories.

The most important thing to remember is the less active you are the less calories expended and the more reduction in lean tissue you will have.  The less lean muscle tissue you have and the less you move the less food you will be able to take in.  That is the number one factor you have to keep in mind.  If you are active and move around you will be able to intake more calories. 

Manage calories and log your food and in the future if you can exercise more then you will be able to increase the amount of food you take in.

Your first step should be to see your physician and find out what level of activity you can participate in.  Maybe you can start by simply walking.  Take baby steps towards your goal until you are feeling healthier and can take on more.  If walking is too much and your physician feels that you are not able to do any type of physical activity, focus on getting better rather than loosing weight.  If your physician feels you can take on some level of activity, it may benefit you to seek the advice of a health and fitness professional.  You can discuss your health issues and what level of activity your physician has cleared you for and the health and fitness professional can develop an individualized exercise program that'll help you reach your goal while staying within your physician recommended activity level.

Also, as always, be sure you are making healthy food choices.  To lose weight, you basically need to eat fewer calories than you are expending.  


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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.