Fitness Disabled (3/3)

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Fitness culture can disguise symptoms of eating disorders or other mental illnesses. Over exercise or compulsive exercise can be a sign of obsessive compulsive disorder or of anorexia or another eating disorder. Many ED patients begin severe calorie restriction as a means of control in a tumultuous life. Severe calorie expenditure is frequently part of the disorder as well.

“Binge” exercising is far less healthful than routine exercise in smaller portions. I once decided to push myself to do as many crunches as possible, after months of inactivity. I tore an abdominal muscle and couldn’t even try exercise for the next six weeks.

There are ways to make fitness more inclusive of disabled non-athletes. As a tremendous bonus, virtually all of them will make fitness more attractive and approachable to able non-athletes as well. They all start with the recognition that bodies are different.

I don’t object to the existence of high intensity workouts, or exercise programs too advanced for me. My problem is with the culture that says this is the only right way to workout. Some of us need one pound weights we can lift in bed. We should also be included.

If general fitness was centered on health, not athleticism or weight loss but health, it would like very different. There would be more breaks to stretch or drink water, and recognition that pain can signify weakness entering the body. It would value healthful participation from all disabled people, not just the athletic. More consideration would be given to proper form and protecting the joints than number of pounds lifted or number of reps. Maintaining current strength or stamina would be recognized as a goal as worthy as building more.

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