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  • Writer's pictureIona Stuart

Let's Talk About Exercise and Disability

Updated: Aug 17, 2022

As the title suggests, let’s talk about exercise and disability.

I see so many posts on social media, and interviews, or TV shows that emphasize things like exercise and weight loss, all suggesting that, 1) apparently, we all seem to have to lose weight (would love to know where this idea came from), and 2) that all we have to do is stop being ‘lazy’ and just go to the gym/follow X diet and do Y with what we eat.

But here’s the thing, what works for one person does not work for everyone.

Like most things in life, it has taken me a very long time to realize this, but when one is disabled, one cannot always follow the same diet/exercise routine that seems to work for people who are not disabled. This may sound obvious to some people, but when you do have a disability and everyone around you is telling to ‘just do this’ you can easily forget that you cannot always do these things. For me, this was difficult to realize because, when I was younger, I was able to do these things. I used to go to my school gym all the time, and so I assumed that I could just get back into this as if the past five years have not changed anything in my life.

Except, that is not the case.

For me, I cannot do a lot of the things I used to be able to do. With the MS relapses I have experienced over the past few years, there are actually quite a lot of things I cannot do that I used to be able to. I think the reason it took me so long to realize this is because everything built up so slowly, and I thought I’d just gotten lazy and could easily go back to working out in gyms and hiking like I used to. Guess what - this is not the case. My physical ability has actually decreased more than I realized, and I genuinely cannot do these things anymore. It just took me a long time to realize this.

Since one of my more intense relapses in 2018, I cannot use a lot of body parts that I used to be able to: arms and hands cannot hold things of the same weight as before; legs do not survive the same distances; my bladder gives out far too easily to go on long walks or do things that squeeze my core muscles too much; my balance is not what is used to be; and increased fatigue means I get far too tired to continue things for the same amount of time.

Hell, even before my major relapse, I tried to go jogging in 2017 and ended up falling over after about five minutes and cutting my knee on an obsidian arrowhead (it’s a long story).

I think my point in writing this post is just to make people aware that we really cannot all do the same things. As much as I - and many others - don’t ‘look’ disabled, we cannot all do the things that others assume we can.

So, yes, I do not exercise, and it’s not because I’m ‘lazy’ or a ‘slob,’ it’s because I do not have the same ability as others who do exercise have.

And that’s okay.

We do not all have to fall into the hole of thinking that if we do not do the exercise programs that are constantly shoved into our faces that we are just lazy. It’s okay not to exercise - even if you do not have a disability! It doesn’t make you, or me, any less compared to those who are constantly discussing their gym sessions.

What leads to one person ‘getting ripped’ may cause others, like myself, to just not be able to stay awake or use our legs for four days, it can lead to fatigue that lasts days, or even weeks - it can lead to us feeling more disabled than we even realized we were. Sometimes, it really just isn’t worth it.

Just do you!

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