Do it at home

Exercise is great for health and mood, but not everyone can afford to pay gym fees or find an accessible gym. A little extra space or a spare bedroom is all you need to create an accessible gym at home.

Regular exercise has been proven to assist in preventing depression, cardiovascular disease and degenerative diseases such as dementia. For wheelchair users, exercise can also assist with upper body strength to make transfers easier.

But applying for a membership at your local gym is not always a possibility, either because it is too expensive, the facilities are not accessible or you don’t have reliable transport.

An accessible home gym is the perfect alternative! Setting up a home gym doesn’t have to cost a lot or take up much space.

Consult a specialist

Before you create your own gym, consult a fitness trainer, physiotherapist or occupational therapist about the equipment and the programme you have in mind. It is important to know how to use all the equipment correctly to avoid injury.

Budget and space

Next, draw up a budget. A big budget allows for more advanced equipment; however, a smaller budget is enough to cover the basics like dumbbells, kettlebells, a yoga mat and a door chin-up bar for the more athletic wheelchair users.

Space will also determine the kind of equipment you can buy. If only a small corner of the bedroom or living room is available, stick to smaller equipment that lines the wall or can be stored on low-hanging shelves. If you have an entire room available, opt for larger machinery such as the Inspire Chest and Shoulder dual machine (R35 999) or the Marcy Pro Circuit trainer (R11 499), available at Sportsman’s Warehouse.

Remember you’ll still need space to move. As Justin Ncube, founder of Justin Universal Design Specialists, says: “There should be space for the wheelchair user to approach and manoeuvre in between equipment. If possible, pick the biggest room in the house to use as a gym.”

Setting up the space

Once you have established where you would like the gym to be, you need to consider how to set up the space to ensure the equipment isn’t damaged or doesn’t damage the room. A small stand-alone shelf is ideal for storing weights, mats and towels. Depending on the exercises you plan to do, a yoga mat will be sufficient. However, four-piece interlocking floor mats are available at Mr Price Sport for about R299, which will protect your floors against weights.

Ncube says: “A very important aspect of a gym planning is the flooring, which must protect your property and help make your own gym equipment last longer. The interlocking gym mats are safe for wheelchair users. Other floor options include vinyl tiles, which are flexible and have similar fusion qualities as rubber, and laminate wood flooring.”

Equipment

For wheelchair users who can afford more advanced equipment, it is important to ensure that the equipment makes it possible to transfer comfortably. If the equipment does not have grab bars, consider using a transfer board. Equipment should fit comfortably in the gym space or room with enough area around it for the wheelchair user to navigate easily.

Finishing touches

No home gym would be complete without a few essentials. Keep fresh towels close by so you can dry off during exercise. Have a bottle of water or electrolyte-filled drink handy to keep you hydrated and energised. Always clean your gym after exercising by spraying and wiping down all the surfaces with antibacterial spray and wipes. This will prevent any harmful fungi or bacteria build-up. Leather gym gloves are also useful for wheelchair users who favour weight exercises.

Visit your nearest gym equipment or sporting goods store for everything you need to set up your accessible home gym. Happy workout!

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