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Everything Disabled people need to know about getting active

Find everything you need to know about becoming more physically active as a Disabled person.

Reading Level: Beginner
Reading Time: 10 minutes

Why is sport and physical activity important?

According to Sport England, Disabled people are twice as likely to be physically inactive (41%) than those without a disability (20%). This means that Disabled people are missing out on all the wide-ranging benefits that sport and physical activity can bring.  

The benefits of sport and physical activity

  • Social Benefits

    There are many physical benefits to getting active. It can help to:

    • Improve your sleep
    • Enhance your co-ordination
    • Strengthen your balance
    • Maintain a healthy weight
    • Reduce risks of developing long term conditions
  • Physical Benefits

    There are many benefits to physical activity that aren’t just felt in your body it can help you:

    • Have fun with friends
    • Meet new people
    • Feel part of the community
    • Reduce loneliness
  • Mental Health Benefits

    Physical activity can make you feel better and give you more energy. It also gives your brain something to focus on and can be a positive coping strategy for difficult times. It can help with:

    • Reducing stress
    • Managing anxiety
    • Improving your self-esteem
    • Reducing the risk of depression

I know that one can still live life to the fullest as a Disabled person. I hope that this mantra could mean there might be fewer barriers and challenges, less discrimination within communities and sports.

Roberto Sardelli, Get Yourself Active sounding board group member

Getting started: solutions to common barriers

Want to take part, but don’t know how? Here are some simple answers to some of the most common issues we hear from our community.

  • Not enough time to be active

    • Make an action plan
    • Spend more time with family and friends and be active with them
    • Fit physical activity into everyday activities, e.g., dancing around the kitchen whilst cooking dinner
    • Be active when travelling, e.g., wheel to the shops instead of getting the bus
  • Lack of support or access to get active

    • Find a partner you’d like to do physical activity with
    • Connect with your organisations in your local community to find out about accessible opportunities
    • In poor weather, try exercising with a video or with the resources
    • If you have a personal budget, see if you could use this to take part in physical activity or sport
  • Physical barriers to getting active

    • If pain is a barrier, being more active may actually be effective in reducing pain
    • Starting physical activity can be difficult when you feel fatigued, but it’s worth it in the end.
    • Do what you feel comfortable with, often you’ll feel more energised and much better after a workout
  • "I can't get active"

    • Start with what you know and build your skills.
    • Do what works and focus on what you can do
    • Think of activities that you enjoy, such as dancing or gardening, rather than forcing yourself to do things completely out of your comfort zone
    • Take a tour of a facility that offers an activity that interests you.
    • There may be certain places with adapted equipment available for you to use.

Active at Home

We know that not everyone will be able to or want to get outside and get active. So, we are actively collating resources from trusted partners and friends to help you get Active at Home in a way that suits you.

Who can help you?

If you need a little help getting active, you can try:

Contacting a local Disabled People’s User Led Organisation

These are groups run by Disabled people for Disabled people. They primarily exist to provide mutual aid and peer support. You can find out about your local DPULOs by searching for them on internet search engines.

Reach out to a local Active Partnership

These are locally based strategic organisations that want to make active lifestyles the norm for everyone. Each Active Partnerships has an online database of clubs, coaches and community groups providing physical activity. You can find out more about Active Partnerships at the Active Partnerships website.

Find a local Inclusive Gym

These leisure centres are more welcoming and accessible environments to Disabled people. You can search for inclusive gyms across the country on the Activity Alliance website here.

“I know from personal experience how challenging the process of ‘getting fit’ is. I’m proud that the thing that made a difference in the early days of my’ fitness journey’ was easily accessible classes”

Rebecca Clarkson, Fundraising Manager Disability Rights UK

Frequently Asked Questions

  • A few organisations and websites are available to help you find accessible activities more easily. You can a sport based on your impairment and find a club near you using the Parasport website.

    Leisure centres provide a range of activities within their facilities. You should also lookout for an Inclusive Fitness Initiative Mark facility. These are listed on the Activity Alliance website.

    Your local voluntary sector infrastructure organisation (CVS or volunteer centre) may have local knowledge about physical activity opportunities.

    Your local Disabled people’s user-led organisation may have useful knowledge and information about physical activity for Disabled people locally. To find out who is in your local area, google ‘Disabled people’ and the name of the local authority area you live or work in.

  • You can get free or discounted bus travel in England by applying for a Disabled person’s bus pass from your local council. The UK government website contains more information about applying for a bus pass.

    If you have an impairment that makes travelling by train difficult, you may also qualify for a Disabled Person’s Railcard. This gives you one-third off most train travel. An accompanying adult will also get one-third off their ticket.

  • The blue badge scheme allows you to use car parking spaces reserved for Disabled people and are usually closer to your destination. Disabled people, including some people with a hidden disability, can apply for a new badge or renew one on the Government website. Your application will be sent to your council, and they will decide if you are eligible.

  • Personal budgets are an agreed amount of money allocated to the individual by the local council (and other funding streams) following an assessment of the individual’s care and support needs. The individual has control of the money to buy their own care and support. It should enable individuals to achieve the outcomes stated in their personalised care and support plan.

    You should be able to use your personal budget in whatever way you wish to demonstrate it meets your outcomes. Physical activity is a very important part of many people’s lives and meets many outcomes, including; increased fitness, increased confidence, connections with the community and more importantly, having fun. You can read more about why it is important here.

    During an assessment process, talk to your social worker about using your personal budget for physical activity. You could use it in various ways, such as paying for the activity itself or asking your support workers to support you to travel or in a session. You can find out more about the process at the Disability Rights UK website.

  • As well as using a personal budget or personal health budget, there may also be other forms of financial help available to get active. For example, Wheelpower offers small grants that can be used to fund a manual sport wheelchair, equipment, kit, and travel expenses.

    Disability Grants have various information available on their website about grants that you could apply for to support you to get physically active.

  • Some gyms and leisure centres have discounts available for Disabled people who want a membership. For example, Better Gyms have an All Inclusive Disability membership that gives Disabled people full access to their gyms, swimming pools and fitness classes. This also includes free entry for a carer or personal assistant. More information is available on the Better Health website.

  • An issue many Disabled people face is having to ‘prove’ they need special assistance or reasonable adjustments made when dealing with service providers.

    One solution to this is to get an Access Card, which costs £15 for three years. To apply, you will need to fill out a form and provide evidence of your disability, e.g. a letter from your doctor. You will then be sent your Access Card, which will display symbols relevant to your needs. These include wheelchair access, urgent toilet needs or difficulty with standing and queuing. The idea is that staff will quickly and discreetly understand what assistance you .

Next Steps

We want to hear from you! 

We’d love for you to share your experiences of getting active and having fun wherever you are. Please do get in touch to share your thoughts on the latest news or what sport and physical activity mean to you.

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