I’m not just angry, I’m sweary angry. However, because I am publishing I am behaving and resisting using the words I am using in my head. Those of you who know me personally can imagine, I am sure.
Recently I was interviewed by SBS News as a vulnerable person in relation to Covid-19.
Robyn Dunphy, 67, has psoriatic arthritis and is on immunosuppressive medication. She is at risk of severe disease. She still takes precautions such as avoiding shops, only buying takeaway coffees and even wearing a mask in the gym if there are other people there.The Australians still putting their lives on hold to avoid Covid
I later learned it was said about me that “vulnerable people don’t go to the gym“. That is paraphrased. I was like WTF??? My immediate reaction was along the lines of, “Well, that is one person’s uninformed opinion, it doesn’t matter, don’t let it worry you”. Then I thought about it. No, it won’t be only one person’s opinion. There will be others thinking similar, if not the same.
I’m here to tell you why vulnerable people go to the gym. It is a question of risk and return. Of wanting to live a life worth living.
If I do not exercise, my condition will worsen. That is 100% guaranteed. By comparison my risk of catching Covid-19 is lower. Yes, I have four risk factors which mean if I catch Covid-19 I may not fare well:
- Over 65
- Medically immunosuppressed
- Underlying inflammatory condition
- Nocturnal AV block
I mitigate risk as much as I can:
- I have had five Covid-19 vaccinations including the new bivalent Moderna shot.
- I mask anywhere indoors – see gym masking below for variation to that rule.
- I choose my times to go to the gym very carefully.
- I am retired so I am not exposed to a work environment.
I have a choice. I already know my health deteriorates without the required exercise. I have experienced that, especially over the last two years. I need the weight training in order to retain my physical independence. My rheumatologists words? “Exercise, eat right, good sleep.” We are about to clock up three years of this pandemic – if I had not persevered with my exercise regime as much as I could during that time, I’d be in trouble. I’d be in pain I don’t want to be in.
This attitude of “vulnerable people don’t go to the gym” is very similar to the Invisible Illness issues I addressed in a recent article. People who don’t know make assumptions, make judgements. Unfair and incorrect judgements. Am I being accused of “making it up”?
I mentioned above my masking rule variation for the gym. I’m currently lifting 115 kilograms on the leg press and yes, I do find that level of exertion difficult with a mask on. At lighter weights I can lift with a mask, but as I progress (hopefully back to my personal best of 160 kilograms) it is harder. So I personally do the following.
- Make sure I am going to the gym at an off-peak time. May only be two other people there.
- Wear mask into and through the building,
- Depending on the weather I may do my warmup by walking around the outside of the building rather than on the treadmill.
- I take my mask off for my 30 minutes of weight training, pop it straight back on when finished lifting.
Swimming is similar. I will take my mask off immediately before putting on my cap and goggles, mask is straight back on when I step out of the pool. I wear the mask in both the hydrotherapy pool and the spa.
Even if I am exposed to the virus during that 30 minutes in the gym, I will have minimised the viral load.
Yes, I am clinically a vulnerable person.
Yes, I will continue to go to the gym to maximise my health by adequately managing my psoriatic arthritis condition. That is a risk I calculate is worth taking given the potential cost to my health of not doing so is high.
Do not make uninformed judgements about what is right for vulnerable people. Do not call our integrity into question by voicing those uninformed judgements.
If you have questions, ask those questions.
Would I prefer we still had protections in place to mitigate the spread of Covid-19? Mitigations like mandatory isolation of infected persons, clean air regulations and masking indoors. Of course!