Woman won't let disability keep her from weight-loss goal

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Hitting the gym to lose weight and gain strength is rough for anyone. But one woman who's done just that faces an extra challenge when she exercises: she can only use the upper half of her body.

The next time you do sit-ups, think of Emily Christensen. She would love to be able to do them on her own but can't.

"On the way home from a golf course, I got in an accident and broke my back," she explains.

That was 16 years ago. Emily has been in a wheelchair ever since. Slowly, she began to put on weight.

"[At] my heaviest I was 300 pounds. That was in 2004," Emily says.

So, she started moving more, eating better and lost 50 pounds on her own. But then went back to school for a masters and gained weight back.

"A year ago is when I started at the wellness center," Emily says.

Neuroworx Wellness Center in South Jordan is a gym for people in wheelchairs and those who have nerve damage.

"I lift weights, and I use a machine called The New Step," Emily says. The machine works her upper body.

Emily doesn't have a personal trainer, just some assistance when needed.

"The rest of us have our bodies. We have our legs, which are large muscles that burn a lot of calories; she's had to do that just using her upper body," sayd Dr. Dale Hull, co-founder of the Nueroworx Wellness Center.

Another challenge Emily faces because of the accident is her body overheats easily, so she can't push it too hard. She says even when she doesn't feel like going to the gym, she does, and it's paying off.

"The other day, I weighed and I was 199 -- passed off that 200!" Emily says.

But she's not done yet.

"I still want to lose another 40 pounds, get stronger and be able to get around better," she says.

Emily is on a local wheelchair tennis team too. She says NBC's Biggest Loser show inspired her to get moving and still inspires her!

If you're inspired too, experts recommend you talk with your doctor before you start any exercise or diet regime.

E-mail: abutterfield@ksl.com

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