Inclusive exercise

PT Magazine - Feb 2015
PT Magazine – Feb 2015

There has been an increased emphasis placed on creating an inclusive environment within our gyms here in the UK, allowing access for all. This includes populations that might be suffering from any form of disability. There has been an increased level of demand for an accessible services over the last few years. This has been spurred by the improved coverage of events like the Paralympics, and the increased profile of some of our paralympians. This in turn has led to an increased interest from fitness professionals who are seeking to work in this area with regard to how they can do this safely and effectively.

There is a common level of misunderstanding that it may be difficult with people with a range of disabilities to use a gym, this is something that as professionals and organisations we must combat in order to ensure that our services are truly open to all. There has been an interesting initiative set up in order to aid this process called The Inclusive Fitness Initiative (IFI), their key aim is to raise the awareness amongst the disabled community in terms of the benefits of taking part in physical activity. They also aim to address inequities in the fitness environment and offer support to those who wish to make their services more inclusive.

There are 9.4 million people with a disability in the UK, which equates to 18% of the working population (Disability Rights Commission, 2011), this relates to a large portion of our communities that may not be targeted by providers of physical activity services. There is however a general lack of engagement in exercise from disabled communities, this has been put down to the lack of accessible facilities, lack of awareness of available services and disposable income of service users. This is despite research that shows those with a disability receive the same physiological, psychological, mental, social and wellbeing benefits as the general population.

This is then compounded by a general lack of specific provision, as fitness professional there are many things we can do to promote more inclusivity.   We can initially try and ensure that we have accessible facilities, this basic step when choosing a venue can make a massive difference in terms of the ability of disabled clients to access your services. There should then be some positive promotion of your service and that you are open to all.

Then the provision of the service itself should be considered, many fitness professionals feel slightly intimidated by the thought of people with a disability accessing their classes/sessions. This generally comes down to a fear of the fitness professionals of their own ability to programme for a disability and a lack of understanding with regard to the limitations of a range of conditions. This can be combated during a consultation as carried out with any client, giving the fitness professional a chance to truly understanding of the clients ability levels. Remember the sufferer is the person who understands the most about how their conditional impacts their lives. This then allows the fitness professional to design interesting and functional training sessions that can have a life changing effect.

If you’re interested in taking this further there are an increased number of training providers that offer training courses in disability fitness, and also a number of organisations for disability sport and fitness.

Tom has been involved in the fitness industry for nearly 20 years. He is a specialist in rehabilitation, exercise referral and helping other fitness professionals to improve their business. He is also involved with course development, teaching, assessing and IQA of a range of training courses. He is always willing to meet other professionals so please do contact him via social media with any questions or just to say hello.

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