Few people care more about the health of South Africans than dancer, singer, choreographer, businesswoman and actress Khabonina Qubeka. On the morning I meet her, she is hosting her fourth annual Dance to Fitness Indaba Breakfast at the Bel Air Shopping Centre in North Riding, where women of all ages and fitness levels have been invited to come and dance their way to health.
She says: “I want to host a Dance For Fitness in every city, and do it in the month of August for women all over the country.” Qubeka says she loves hosting dance and fitness events for all people, but in particular women: “It’s always so nice to see women moving and enjoying themselves. Because when we dance, we are doing what we are born to do.” For Qubeka, fitness is more than just about gym – she is big on just getting people to move.
“People are always surprised when they meet me and find I am not a big gym bunny. Because my thing is movement, not just exercise.”
Earlier this year, she released a new song with a funky exercise video called Shake Your Booty, which challenged men and women to get moving. The runner, yogi and dancer says: “Being healthy and fit is never about how big you are. Our bodies were meant to move, and we get unfit and unhealthy because we stop moving and stop looking after ourselves. Your body is your biggest project, and it’s all your own doing. And what makes me sad is that so many of our illnesses and ailments are lifestyle related: diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure, all of these things are preventable, but they are killing our people.”
Qubeka says that there are three main reasons South Africans are so unhealthy. “The first is that health and wellness has been thought to be less important than other pressing concerns. Other parts of the world have recognised the importance of health and wellness for a society, and have made it a priority. However, here, looking after your body is still seen as a luxury, or only for aboNgamla [white people] who can afford to worry about those things. That has a lot to do with how health and fitness has been marketed.
“Secondly, exercising is sold as being possible only through a gym, and with wearing fancy clothes, and for certain body types.
“Which brings me to the third reason we are so unhealthy: healthy food is positioned as ‘larney’, and something you need money to afford. We grow up thinking healthy foods are things many of us can’t afford. But also, more than that, we take in a lot of sugar and salt, often without realising it. How many of us grew up eating butternut with butter and sugar? How many of us only consider full-cream milk ‘real’ milk?”
Qubeka says her approach to a lot of healthy eating is to gradually cut out certain things. “If someone likes amagwinya [vetkoek] or iKota [bunny chow] every day, the idea should be to make gradual lasting changes so we can commit to new lifestyles. So, don’t eat amagwinya every day, but you can have it as a treat if that’s what you like, while also giving your body what it needs.”
Qubeka has dedicated herself to educating South Africans about how best to prevent lifestyle illnesses. Her e.tv show, Gym eKasi, took ordinary South Africans and helped them get fit with what they had to hand, right where they lived. She was also part of First Lady Bongi Zuma’s diabetes education drive, and says: “Fitness is not a joke. It’s not just dancing when we are dancing. Yes, it is fun, and we are enjoying ourselves, but that’s also where we are learning. When we did the diabetes-education programme with the First Lady, we said diet and exercise were the only ways to fix this thing, so fitness is serious business.”
About summer bodies, and the eternal pursuit for a Dezemba-ready body that sees gyms become unbearably full once winter ends, Qubeka humorously admonishes anyone, saying that: “We shouldn’t be building summer bodies every spring; we should be maintaining our bodies all year round.”
She finishes with this serious admonishment: “Fitness and being healthy is good for our bodies, which is good for us, and that ultimately makes us better people.”
Khabo’s daily home-exercise plan
Exercise need not involve a gym or money, and you don’t even need to leave your bed to work out. Here are some tips and tricks for exercising in the comfort of your home:
The Leg Lift
Don’t want to get out of bed to exercise? Well, you don’t have to. Just fold a heavy blanket threefold and lie on your side. Place the folded blanket over your outer thigh, then lift and lower your leg. Start with just five sets of 10 reps and then change sides.
Do this every morning for two weeks (including weekends) if you really want to see results.
Glutes, outer thighs, inner thighs
Go to the kitchen floor or any floor that’s slippery or waxed. Get on your knees (add padding to protect them), then use a vryf (polishing) motion to move your arms in and out in a circle. This is called The Wheel at the gym. Use your arm and stomach muscles to move in and out. Do this three to four times a week.
Target areas: Abdominal muscles, arms
Instead of sitting and gossiping over cake and tea or biscuits and fizzy drinks (which are all packed with sugar), take a gossip walk around the block with your friends. The juicier the gossip, the faster the walk. Afterwards, plonk yourself on the couch and relax with a glass of water and lemon slices.
Khabonina's top fitness-at-home tips
Target: All-over feeling of wellness/better informedness
1. Make an exercise routine out of your house chores. Taking out the trash, cleaning windows, washing your car and working in the garden can all be work-outs if done routinely for a few days each week.
2. Make sure to rest. Rest is part of your exercise routine, giving your muscles time to recover and the chance for you to recharge.
- You can check out more home work-outs at khabostore.co.za
- For health tips, go to khabonina.blogspot.com
- Follow Khabonina on Instagram at Khabonina_Fitness
- on Facebook at Khabonina Fitness
- on Twitter @Khabonina_Q