It’s National Fitness Day, a day that highlights the role physical activity plays across the UK, helping raise awareness of its importance in helping us lead healthier lifestyles through being physically active.
Sadly, the research shows that although four in five (81 per cent) of Disabled people would like to be more active, only one in three (32 per cent) agree that ‘sport’ is for them.
We know this needs to change, and so we wanted to reach out to experts in our community so that whoever reads this can feel confident to get out and get active in ways that suit them. We asked them three of the questions we hear most often when Disabled people look to get active:
Meet the experts
Our expert panel consists of Judith Cauntler, an instructability accredited personal trainer and wheelchair user. Dawn Vickers, who recently ended her tenure as MD of DanceSyndrome. She is currently Director with Spring into, a CIC enabling Disabled people to have meaningful lives. Our final expert is Roy Kimberley, a Fit 4 Life coordinator based at the Disability Resource Centre in Birmingham.
How do I start?
Judith: Think about what you might enjoy and what’s suited to you. Some places offer taster sessions, they used to do a wheelchair sport try out day at a local leisure centre near me (see attached pic, that’s me in the green circle).
Dawn: Tell a friend or family member and ask them to support you or better still to join you, it’s good to have a buddy involved to keep you motivated. It doesn’t matter if you decide it’s not for you because the good news is there are loads of activities you can try. So if this one doesn’t work, you can try another.
Make a list of 5 activities that you’d try if they were available – let your imagination go wild. You might not end up doing any of them, but it’ll get you thinking about being active and get. There is something for everyone whatever your ability.
Roy: Keep your mind open to sports/activities that you may think wouldn’t be of interest and give them ago. Many people I know are now participating in sports that they have never done before. However if you can find a sport that is similar to an activity you used to do prior to disability then this would be a good starting point.
How do I find activities in my local area?
Dawn: Now you know what you’d like to try and when, it’s time to find out where. The Internet is a great place to start searching. If you’re not confident using computers, ask a friend or family member for help. Ask in your local library, they can help you use a computer too.
Are there any community groups in your area that can help you? Many towns have community groups and you can find out about these from your GP. Ask a friend or family member to help you with your search. Try the Get Yourself Active website too of course.
Judith: There’s lots of places to look. Local council, sports clubs, leisure centres. National sports bodies that have a ‘find activity in my area” button. Charities that specialise in your particular disability, for example, Cerebral Palsy, or you could try asking specific Disability rehab centres or physios.
Roy: Social media is a great platform to find or research what’s available in your local community.
I’ve found something I like – how do I keep going?
Roy: This really depends on your impairment. If you require physical or emotional support then I would look to family members, volunteers, friends or paid support workers which could be financed through an individual budget.
Judith: If it’s cost, you may be able to get a grant. If your worried about going alone for first time some councils offer a community support service (PCC community connectors)
Dawn: Every week say to yourself ‘Ok I’ll go today and then I’ll see how I feel next week’. No pressure. If you’ve had a great time, make a note of how that makes you feel.
If you miss going one week it doesn’t matter, you can start again the week after. It will still be there and all your new friends will be looking forward to seeing you again when you’re ready to go back.
Remember why you decided to get active by having lots of reminders written down, or as a picture, or photos, or voice recordings, or videos – whatever works for you.
If you decide that your new activity really isn’t working for you remember you can try a different one. You might end up setting up a new activity in your own area. It is possible, look at DanceSyndrome. Jen did it, you can do it too.
Feeling inspired by our group of experts? You can find more activities, resources and videos on the Get Yourself Active website here.