Onwards and upwards!

Lord, it’s hard to be humble. That’s according to the US singer Mac Davis. Sometimes it’s hard to be healthy too! But follow our advice and you’ll soon be in tip-top shape …

It can be hard to focus on health and fitness. This applies to all of us and not just to wheelchair users. However, wheelchair users are faced with a unique set of challenges. Bearing this in mind, follow our top five tips – and you’ll soon be the healthiest and fittest wheelchair user in town!

Get enough sleep

The importance of sleep cannot be overemphasised. Eight hours is the recommended amount. Try to set a fixed bedtime – and then stick to it!

Avoid obesity

Obesity is relatively common among wheelchair users. Practise healthy eating habits to ensure that your weight doesn’t soar. Salads can be yummy too! So ensure that fruit and vegetables are part of your daily eating plan. And go easy on those carbs. Remember that it’s not only food that makes a big difference when it comes to weight gain; what you drink is important too. Excessive intake of alcohol isn’t a great idea. Neither is the downing of lots of juice and sodas. If you must drink juice, water it down (you will soon get used to the taste). For a bit of extra fizz (quite literally), add sparkling mineral water to your drink.

Remember that cardiovascular exercise is important

Cardiovascular exercise is vital for everyone – including wheelchair users. You need to raise your heart rate. Participate in some form of exercise that makes you sweat. Sport can be fun, so how about bowls or basketball or rugby? When doing exercise, try to incorporate some form of weight training. This will help you to reduce those injuries that are so common to wheelchair users (who are constantly engaging upper-body muscles).

Focus on posture and stretching

Posture is extremely important. Experts recommend that you keep your feet, knees, hips and shoulders in a straight line. Don’t forget to stretch – doing so regularly will help to keep your joints flexible.

safeguard your mental health

Many South Africans battle with depression – and wheelchair users are no exception. Don’t be too proud to consult medical professionals if you need therapy or medication. The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) is at the forefront of patient advocacy, education and destigmatisation of mental illness in the country. Its expertise lies in assisting patients and callers throughout South Africa with mental health queries. Visit the SADAG website – www.sadag.org – for advice and more information pertaining to support groups in your area.

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