Zumba for disabled people is harder than it looks

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Zumba for disabled people: even though zumba is harder than it looks two African-American women are having in a Zumba class. They bounce their hips together and smile at each other.

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Zumba for disabled people is harder than it looks

While Zumba might look easy, for many disabled people with underlying health conditions it is harder than it looks. This is a personal essay about moving my body as a fat woman with dyspraxia.

I’ve struggled with my weight since I hit puberty. Bad genetics, a habit of eating when I’m bored or stressed, bipolar meds that mess with my metabolism, and reliance on fast food and convenience foods when I’m too busy or too tired to cook something healthy have all contributed to my being fat. Until the last few years, my issues with my weight were mostly aesthetic. But arthritis in my knees, sleep apnea, and most recently, a scare with my heart have made me pay attention.

Because of my complicated relationship with food, exercise is a better strategy for me to lose weight. That said, until the last few years, I had difficulty associating exercise with something positive. I had too many memories of gym class, which was especially humiliating because of my dyspraxia, also known as developmental coordination disorder. Because of my height, people told me I should try out for basketball, but, unfortunately, I couldn’t coordinate dribbling and running, let alone shoot baskets. I never even learned to ride a two-wheeled bike.

The funny thing is that I feel great while I’m moving and afterwards. It’s getting going that causes problems. I have to remind myself that, most likely, someone is not going to make fun of me, and if they do, they don’t merit my attention. I’m not the only disabled person in the Zumba class concerned about keeping the beat and not tripping. In yoga, I’m happier if I keep my focus on my breathing and how good it feels to move than if I’m concerned about how I look in each asana. On the rare occasions that I made time to use my office building’s fitness room (pre-pandemic), I was there to release tension, not worry about if people are judging how fast I move.

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One of my favorite forms of exercise is walking dogs. I started by volunteering at a shelter; I lived in an apartment at the time and couldn’t have a dog, so I enjoyed taking the shelter dogs for walks and playing with them. I’ve been privileged to share my life, and my home with two dogs (so far) and have noticed that walking with them is an exercise for body, mind, and spirit. When it’s cold, raining, or in the middle of the night, the dog still needs to go out. When I’m out with them, I pay attention to smells, sounds, wildlife, other dogs. Even when I have my headphones on, it’s a chance to practice mindfulness.

When my best friend, who trained in ballet as a child and teenager, lived with us, we would sometimes have impromptu dance parties in her upstairs space. Keitha has since moved out of state to be with her fiancé, and we’ve taken our dance parties onto Zoom. My wife and I also like to dance; while neither of us has good rhythm, we make up for it in enthusiasm.

When I can, I move for good causes too. Fundraising walks, beach clean-ups, and even just picking up litter in my neighborhood keep me from stagnating. It’s even more satisfying than powering my way through an intense workout video.

Article by
Meghan K. Donovan

Meghan K. Donovan is a poet, essayist, and visual artist. She is working on her first novel in between working a demanding day job and being a peace activist. She lives in Cleveland, Ohio with her amazing wife, two spoiled cats, and an assortment of plants.


'Trust me. When you have dyspraxia, Zumba is harder than it looks.'