Fitness is just as important for disabled people as it is for abled people but it’s different when you are abled because typically the only thing that stops an abled person from working out is the weather or lack of motivation. Abled people sometimes complain that exercise is hard but you don’t know hard until you have a disability that makes most exercise moves impossible or very difficult to do. When you are disabled fitness is important for disabled people but most people do not bother with it because fitness is not acessible and it takes way too much work to find an accessible routine. I live with the most severe form of Spina Bifida and am very limited when it comes to exercise because most exercise routines target muscles I do not have but despite the challenges, I still do full-length workouts. Why even bother exercising as disabled when fitness is not accessible and requires twice as much effort? In this post, I am going to talk about why I work out as a disabled person even though I am constantly facing barriers.
I enjoy my routine– When I first started working out I walked roughly about two miles because that is mostly what I saw abled people doing and I thought I should be doing that too but I hated every minute of it because it was too much for my disabled body. I almost gave up on fitness until I stumbled across a couple of YouTube videos that make fitness fun and changed my whole view on exercise. People always ask me how I stay motivated and consistent with my workouts as a disabled person because even abled people sometimes struggle with sticking to their workout routine. The problem I see most people make that usually ends in failure is that people often are doing workouts that they have to force themselves to do because it burns the most calories. Find a workout that you enjoy because when you look forward to your routine you are more likely to stick to it long-term. There are other types of workouts that I could do that would burn more calories and people are always suggesting them to me but I don’t typically take these suggestions because often you are suggesting something I don’t like. I don’t love every move in my workout because no one does and sometimes I do certain things because it’s good for me but for the most part I do look forward to working out. The best exercise isn’t necessarily the one that burn the most calories but it’s the exercise you can stick to because there is not point in exercising if you are only doing it before holidays.
It’s the only thing about my disability I can control- As a disabled person I have a lot of challenges because of my disability that I am stuck with that I cannot control but how much I exercise is something I can control. I have very limited control over stoma issues or when I will get my next migraine but I can control my fitness level even if I am limited and can’t do every exercise routine out there. I exercise because I have a lot of health challenges and if I can help it I will do everything in my power to lower my risk for disease that is caused by lack of movement because I don’t need any more challenges other than the ones I already have. When you have Spina Bifida exercise is difficult but for most people it is possible and likely the only thing about your disability you can control.
It is my escape- There is no exercise that will completely erase my disability because you can’t lift some weights and cure Spina Bifida. I am always facing barriers even when I do a workout that I enjoy because most exercise routines are designed for abled people and is impossible for a disabled person without modifications. I like to work out not because I am expecting to completely erase my disability but it’s my time to escape from all life’s problems the best that I can. I face more challenges when working out and that is never going to go away but when you are frustrated with your disability and can pretend to punch someone it feels so good! As a disabled person sometimes life get so frustrating and sometimes you need to throw a few punches to let everything out and you can do that during exercise.
Exercise can prevent migraine- There are some types of exercises such as weight-lifting that can trigger migraine in some people but it is recommended that people with migraine exercise because it can help lessen the frequency of attacks. I sometimes trigger migraine when I am exercising because I don’t drink enough water or start working out when I should have taken a rest day but for the most part, I use exercise to prevent migraine. If you live with migraine and there is one reason that you start exercising today, do it to prevent migraine and to have less pain. I wouldn’t recommend exercising when you are in the middle of an attack or feel like you are about to get one but it’s a great tool to use to prevent migraine when you are feeling well. Some of the pain we experience as disabled people are part of our disabilities and there is not exercise that will get rid of it but sometimes you have pain because you aren’t moving enough.
It shows me what I am truly capable of- When you are disabled it’s easy to focus on all the things you cannot do that your disability has taken from you. There are some exercises that you will not be able to do as a disabled person because your disability limits it and you don’t have those muscles. I exercise not because I think I will be able to build muscles I don’t have but to see what things I can do and what I truly can’t. Before I started working out there were tons of things that I thought I could not do like planks but it turns out that I can do a lot of things I thought I couldn’t. You can’t exercise your disability away and there will be certain moves that may take you years to be able to do but you might be surprised by how much you can do. I have experimented with tons of different exercises and some of them I will never be able to do but some of them I can and I learn what my disability truly limits by exercising.
It makes me confident in my body– Some people work out because they are trying to achieve a certain physique but I personally do not work out for vanity reasons because I think you should work out for better and not to look a certain way. As a disabled person, I am not ever going to be able to build muscles like abled people can because I can’t exercise in the same way as someone who has muscles that work properly and that is okay but I don’t workout to change my body and exercise to feel confident in the disabled body I have. When I exercise I feel confident but when I don’t I feel lazy and sometimes a little self-conscious about my body. People that exercise on a regular basis typically are more confident in their bodies because it’s not always about changing your body but appreciating the one you have.
It makes it so I can eat more junk food- As a disabled person, I have to be more mindful of the things I eat because I am not as mobile as abled people and can’t do crazy hard workouts to burn off all the bad food I ate. The way you look mostly comes down to the foods you eat because as much as we wish we could you can’t out-train a bad diet. As a disabled person, who works out regularly I can eat a little more junk food than someone who never has gone to a gym and not be negatively impacted by it. I still eat healthy because even though you exercise that doesn’t mean you never have to eat a salad again because you would be surprised how much it takes to burn off a cookie but exercising does allow you to be able to eat a little bit more without worrying about it affecting your weight.
It exercises my creative muscles– When I write a blog post I use my creative muscles to come up with ideas but I use them more during my workout because fitness is not accessible and you have to be a little creative. I use workout videos to exercise but unfortunately, my workouts are designed for abled people and sometimes I can’t do the moves my trainer is telling me to because it requires me to stand or works muscles I don’t have. If there is one thing that my disability has taught me it’s that there is always another move you can substitute when you can’t do what is asked of you and sometimes you just have to think a little outside of the box. It is not unusual for you to see me doing something that is completely different from the one my trainer is doing and often it’s not a modification of the move I am supposed to be doing but one I came up with myself.
When you are disabled exercise is really hard because fitness is not made for someone when a physical disability. Fitness is just as important for disabled people just as it is for abled people because we are made to move and if are able and don’t it could create avoidable medical problems. When people think of exercise often the first thing that comes to mind is killing yourself at the gym but movement doesn’t have to be like that and it can be as simple as walking around your house every few hours or doing squats while you are brushing your teeth. Find an exercise that work for you and have a strong why because everyone is going to find enjoyment in different things. I hope I helped you see that there is a point to exercising when you are disabled even though it may be a little harder. It is frustrating that workout videos are not designed for disabled people because most people that need them will be disabled but you still shouldn’t use lack of accessibilty as an excuse not to exercise. You can always find a way to move your body that does accomodate your disability even if it doesn’t seem like much because some is better than none. Why do you exercise?
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