How Our Disability Affects the Intensity of Our Fitness Routines

Updated: Apr 13

Dear Readers,

Today I am going to share my thoughts on my disability in terms of how it relates to exercising and maintaining a healthy fitness routine.

My relationship with fitness has been a confusing one…

According to official medical diagnosis when I arrived into the U.S., they said I had polio and scoliosis. Prior to that time, I lived in an orphanage in China where no one bothered to diagnose me. It was only after I was adopted to America that I knew what my disability was.

Due to the severe curvature of my back, doctors said I had to be operated on right away. Hence, shortly after arriving and before I was even acquainted with my new family, I had to undergo a 12 plus hour surgery.

So why am I talking about fitness in relation to working out and keeping up with a fitness regimen? Well, perhaps like many of you, I’ve felt confused as to how much I should exert myself despite the type of disability I have. I have had several doctors suggest to me that I should not over exert myself due to my polio diagnosis. They say swimming is probably the best form of exercise for me since I will not have to put extra strain on my shoulders. As many of you know, being an everyday wheelchair user is very hard on our shoulders.

But the medical professionals also emphasized the importance of exercise. This is especially true for me because of the muscle atrophy caused by polio. Over time, my core body muscles will become more and more weak if I don’t exercise. Hence, even to this day, I still do not know what “moderate” amount of exercise means. Or how much I should exercise to be considered “healthy”. There is the regular health advise everyone gets, but we all know general recommendations need to be adapted to individual needs, this is especially the case for people with disabilities.

My question to all of you who are currently living with post-polio is, how have you balanced maintaining a healthy fitness routine while also being careful to not overexert yourself? What exercises are in your fitness routine (i.e. stretch bands, weights, swimming, adaptive sports, etc.)?

To further expand on the fitness discussion, here are some other questions regarding fitness for people with other kinds of mobility disabilities: How does your disability effect which exercise routines you partake? What fitness exercises have you found to be most enjoyable? Where do you prefer to do your exercises (i.e. at home or in a gym)? If it is at home, especially during these global pandemic days, what online resources are your favorite?

This is a platform for people with all sorts of mobility disabilities to share your thoughts on fitness, travel, and general disability issues. Let’s all share our experiences and build a healthy, worldly, and informed community together!

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