The challenges of staying fit as a neurodiverse person

Rosemary Richings
4 min readNov 10, 2020

Everything you need to thrive in a fitness class I don’t have, and that’s entirely my disability's fault. I have Dyspraxia.

So let me just explain it by using some real-world fitness class examples. When you walk into a spin class or even a subdued yoga class there are lots of noises and sensory distractions.

People are shouting, playing music, and moving quickly. My Dyspraxic brain can’t keep up with the limitations of my environment, along with basic instructions when I get overloaded with sensory distractions.

When that happens, that activates my “flight or fight” form of anxiety.

Fight my way through it, and at least try to appear confident, or fly my way out of there as fast and as discreetly as possible.

I also have no fine or gross motor skills, a lack of balance, and an impaired sense of space and time. All of the above give me loose ligaments and joints. But I only recently learned about the most dangerous attribute of Dyspraxia in my adulthood:

Hypotonia, which gives me poor muscle tone and can make me a lot more prone to chronic muscle pain.

On the surface, I might “look” flexible but I’m probably doing something that will hurt me in through bending further back than I’m capable of. The dangerous part of that issue is that I never actually know that.

Despite all that, I do have my strengths in fitness

I am an excellent runner, walker, pacer, and I have a talent for endurance. I can also skate, ride horses, and swim.

To learn all those activities though, I had patient, one-on-one supervision and instructions until I didn’t need it anymore.

The problem with group fitness classes is that you’re lacking that supervision. No one can watch you and just you and say:

“Stop it, you’ll hurt yourself!”


“Here, let me correct you!”

Although it’s not a fault of the instructor. When you have a large group to monitor, there is only so much you can do.

Then there’s the…

Rosemary Richings

Writer, editor, author, neurodiversity advocate with a lived experience, dyspraxic POV