A healthy lifestyle is important for everyone, regardless of circumstance. Diet, sleep, exercise, community, these aspects together affect your mood, your outlook, your mental well-being, and your physical health.
It is equally, if not more important to actively pay attention to these aspects if you use a wheelchair.
Wheelchairs bring their own share of problems and complications to your health. A susceptiblity to depression and a lack of physical activity if left unchallenged, can easily end in an unhealthy lifestyle, and increased risk of physical ailments and illnesses. And so, the cycle begins. Prevention however is better than cure, which means, considered, small daily actions, with balance and attention to the details of life can make all the difference.
Your perspective of your circumstances, is the key to a quality of life you can enjoy. And, you can!
So, below are a few tips, from those in the know. Sourced from a variety of articles listed below:
All worthy resources, worth checking out.
As you read through them, think about what will work for you. Try a few, make some adjustments, and keep trying. Every individual is different, and you need to find the things that work for you.
It is possible to have a healthy, happy life.
1. Engage in Cardiovascular Exercise.
Mental health is directly connected to physical health. So, exercise is a must. It doesn’t matter what you do, just do something.
Some days you will enjoy it. Somedays you won’t. Somedays will be purely a case of mind of over matter. That applies to everyone, wheelchair bound or not. The point is, just do it – its good for you, you need it – and 9 times out of 10, you will feel better afterwards, so push through.
Whether you push your wheelchair until you get sweaty and feel your heart racing or engage in exercises with a rowing machine, a stationary hand bike, and/or swimming it doesn’t matter. Which you choose, is entirely up to you. Your objective is just to start, and incrementally improve.
2. Begin Weight Training.
Pushing a wheelchair is hard work. It leaves you prone to repetitive muscle injuries, especially in the shoulder and chest muscles, while your back muscles are neglected.
The best way to prevent these injuries, is to incorporate muscle-strengthening exercises into your regular exercise routine. These will build up your back muscles and help prevent injury in your shoulders. Free-weights are great for wheelchair users.
Stretching is imperative. Full stop. It helps maintain your mobility by keeping your joints flexible, but more than that, its good for you. Being in a seated position for long hours is not good for anybody, building up tension in your muscles and joints. Regular stretching aids in releasing the built up stress (and chemicals). Just a few simple stretching exercises can make all the difference, and help relieve the strain and stress on your body.
The entire routine can consist of just a few stretches each day. And, it only requires that you hold the stretch for about 30 seconds. These movements ensure that your body is comfortable, flexible and strong when being moved – and improves bodily circulation.
Here are some simple stretches to get you going: https://winfar.co.za/benefits-of-stretching-when-youre-a-wheelchair-user/
4. Maintain Good Posture When Sitting.
Maintaining good posture cannot be underestimated, both for the health of your spine and bones. Sitting comprises a large part of a wheelchair user’s day, but it can lead to scoliosis, pressure sores and the inability to breathe correctly. So it is important to ensure that you maintain good posture at all times. The best plan is to keep the feet, knees, hips and shoulders in a straight line while sitting.
To help you maintain this proper posture, make sure you do your stretches. It will help!
Also read: https://winfar.co.za/wheelchair-health-why-posture-is-key-to-comfort-and-health/
Your chair comfort also goes a long way to helping your posture, so make sure you are comfortable, and if you need additional back supports, do the homework.
Also read: https://winfar.co.za/life-in-a-chair-5-keys-to-comfort/
5. Watch what you eat
Just because you aren’t as mobile when you are in a wheelchair, does not mean you can’t maintain a healthy weight.
Correct diet and nutrition is important. Just think about it. If you are overweight, everything is harder. Not only practically, in managing transfers to the bed or bathroom, but also emotionally and mentally.
So, eat well, with respect. You don’t have watch every mouthful 24/7, you just need to pay attention to what you’re put into your body. And ensure that you eat at least the daily minimum requirement of every nutrient. And focus on foods that boost your immunity.
6. Drink Fluids
Fluid is essential for maintaining overall health and brain function.
Limit your carbonated intake, and keep alcohol and caffeine to a minimum. Both, are high in sugars and simply not good for you.
7. Plan for a Good Night’s Sleep
Do not underestimate the power of sleep deprivation, to ruin your day, and affect your emotional and physical health.
On average, an adult requires 6-8 hours quality sleep a night to allow the body to recover from the stress of the day.
We understand this can be easier said than done. If you struggle to get comfortable, purchase a body pillow that you can place in between your legs to prevent one leg from applying undue pressure onto the other one.
And please, note to self, avoid sleeping in your chair. When it’s time to sleep, go to bed. You will wake up more refreshed and have more energy to face the day.
8. Be Mentally Healthy.
Don’t ignore the effect of a disability on mental health. Sometimes, when you’re caught up in physical health issues, you forget that your mental health is as, if not more important. Exercise, the outdoors, community and honesty go a long way to countering depression. Please, find a community that supports you. Isolation is no mans friend. You need an environment that lets you be you, that lets you speak openly and honestly about how you feel, what you struggle with…
Talk with other wheelchair users. Join an online chat group, You’d be amazed at how refreshing it is to talk to someone who understands the challenges faced every day.
9. Don’t Hesitate to Ask for Help
Yes, it’s hard. But, not asking for help, has its own price. So, do what you can do safely and ask for help when you need it.
10. Take shower regularly and maintain hygiene
Not to state the obvious, but taking a shower every day is important – for your hygiene and mental well-being. Yes, it’s difficult – but, its rewards are worthwhile.
And there are a whole host of roll in bathroom and shower safety aids available these days – that don’t all cost a fortune, but they do make a huge difference.
With the right equipment, showering is one of those things you can attend to independently.
11. Obtain Treatment for Pain.
Don’t suffer through! Pain is a common problem for wheelchair users. If you are experiencing pain so severe that it interferes with your day to day functioning and quality of life, speak to your doctor. There are pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical solutions that will help. Just ask.
Just because you are in a wheelchair, is no excuse. Travelling makes your workd bigger. It opens up your mind to different realities and cultures – and it strengthens mental well-being.Yes, you wll need to plan in advance, but there are lots of resources specifically aimed at wheelchair travellers. So, start dreaming, start planning, start saving and go. You wont regret it.
Live your life well. It’s a choice.