3 October, 2023

Taking up exercise is one of the best things that you can do for yourself. It can significantly reduce your risk of breast cancer and also boost your mental health at the same time. But it isn’t always easy to get started.

Adaptive CrossFit athlete, Brook-Jade Millhouse sat down with Breast Cancer UK to talk about her journey into CrossFit and the importance of creating inclusive fitness spaces for disabled people. 

“The first thing people notice about me is that I have one arm. It’s far from the most interesting thing about me, and it’s never stopped me from doing anything. That includes being physically active.  

“I wouldn’t necessarily put that down to the inclusivity of the spaces that I’m entering. It’s more so the fact that I’ve always been a very loud and outgoing person. If we’re in a room together, you’ll probably hear me before you see me! 

“I’ve always been quite sporty, and I used to play a lot of hockey at university. But when I graduated, it became a lot harder to stay active. It can be quite intimidating to go out into the world and find a fitness club. But I knew that I needed something, so I tried going to the gym.  

“To be honest, I found it quite boring, so I kept searching. I’m the type of person who needs people around me to help me have fun and keep me accountable. One day, I was scrolling through Instagram and came across a CrossFit video that looked interesting.  

“I didn’t see any people who looked like me doing it, but I thought, why don’t I just turn up in the space and see what happens? If I don’t go, what happens if someone who looks like me or has a disability wants to go, but can’t see anyone like them? It turned out to be one of the best things I ever did. 

“It’s upsetting to know that there are so many disabled people out there who are missing out on the benefits of exercise because of the lack of inclusive spaces. Having a disability shouldn’t mean that you automatically have a higher risk of breast cancer or heart problems. That’s why I’m passionate about breaking the connection between disability and an inactive lifestyle. 

“CrossFit has become such a passion of mine and I’d recommend it to everyone. It’s high-intensity and combines gymnastics, weightlifting and cardio. I’ve found it particularly useful for strengthening my back.  

“I know that at some point my body won’t let me be as strong as everybody else in my age bracket. My spine curves slightly to the left because my arm is shorter on the right side. Even though having children isn’t in my immediate future, when that day comes, I want to be able to lift them up. Disabled people tend to think about these things further in advance than most people. 

“My disability means that I use adaptations when I train, but it hasn’t stopped me from reaping the full benefits of CrossFit. I train regularly and take part in competitions. 

“There’s a weird narrative that disabled people who exercise must go on to become Paralympians. Whilst that’s an amazing thing to aspire to, simply being healthy and active is a goal to be proud of in itself.” 

If you were inspired by Brooke’s story and would like to find out more, read check out her Instagram page and insightful Disabled and Proud Podcast 

Start your breast cancer prevention journey today by taking our prevention quiz. 

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