So you want to be more active… Here are some ideas on how to start from the English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS) as well as how to progress in sport should you have ambitions to.
Not every disabled person can or will want to be a Paralympian or even reach elite standard. For many, just being active is enough. That is why the English Federation of Disability Sport is keen to ensure all opportunities are inclusive for people with every impairment and at a level they wish to take part at.
The Being Active Guide, by EFDS in partnership with Disability Rights UK, talks directly to disabled people. It gives inactive disabled people access to relevant information, so they have control over where, what and how they can start being active.
You can download the free guide at: www.efds.co.uk
What activity should you do?
Choose something that you like and that gets the heart going a little. It needn’t be anything that we traditionally think of as sport. It could be yoga, walking, dancing, horse-riding or orienteering.
Focus on heart (cardio-vascular) fitness, flexibility, strength, coordination and balance. This will help you keep active for as long as possible and also has the most benefits for mental wellbeing. (Walking ticks all these boxes.)
Make it interesting. Set simple targets. Try something new if you’re getting bored.
What about the barriers in our heads?
- I’ve never liked exercise
- I don’t like getting sweaty
- I look stupid when I run
- My impairment/health conditions prevents me from exercising
- I’m too busy
- I’m too uncoordinated
You’ve probably heard a lot of these and maybe others. Some of our excuses relate to our impairment or health condition, some don’t. They all keep us inactive.
Who cares what you look like? Do what you enjoy, or something you’ve never tried before. Think broadly beyond the traditional sports. What about yoga or dancing?
Think of ways of doing what you want to do differently: put stabilisers on your bike, swim with a rubber ring or armbands and so on. Fancy roller-blading but not sure about your balance? Perhaps you could use Nordic walking sticks as an aid. Worried your dancing is dodgy? Dance at home.
You don’t have to go to a gym or sports centre. There are many exercises you can do at home with either cheap equipment or no equipment at all. There is a lot of satisfaction in simply doing one more repetition of an exercise than you did the day before.
Again, depending on your impairment, you might want to get some personal advice from your health professional, local disabled person’s organisation, club or group for people with your impairment or a fitness coach.
Inclusive Fitness Initiative
The Inclusive Fitness Initiative (IFI) was established more than 10 years ago. The programme run by EFDS supports leisure centres to become more welcoming and accessible environments for disabled people.
An IFI facility provides a fully inclusive customer journey for all users, from arriving at the facility, through to accessible changing rooms, training advice and equipment choice.
You can find your nearest IFI Mark gym on: www.efds.co.uk
EFDS also has an extensive, regularly updated list of local activities, competitions and events to get involved with – visit their website to see what’s going on in your area.
BBC Get Inspired provides an activity finder for anyone to search through a range of opportunities around the country.
The Deloitte Parasport ‘Find a Club’ will help you to find clubs in your local area so that you can learn more about what they do and how you can get involved. www.parasport.org.uk/find-a-club
National Disability Sports Organisations
There are eight national disability sports organisations that provide advice, support and opportunities for people with specific impairments to take part in sport and physical activity.
- British Blind Sport – Provides visually impaired people with opportunities to participate in sport and physical activity.
- Cerebral Palsy Sport – The country’s leading sports organisation supporting people who have cerebral palsy to reach their potential.
- Dwarf Sports Association UK – Aims to make regular sporting opportunities accessible and enjoyable to anyone with restricted growth.
- Mencap Sport and Special Olympics GB – Work together to promote sport and physical activity opportunities for people with a learning disability.
- LimbPower – Supports amputees and people with limb impairments to find the right sport and leisure activity for their needs and ability.
- UK Deaf Sport – Encourages people who are deaf or hard of hearing to participate, enjoy and excel at sport.
- WheelPower – Provides opportunities, facilities and equipment to enable disabled people to participate in sport and lead healthy active lives.
Find your local County Sports Partnership (CSP)
There are 45 county sports partnerships covering England. They are networks of local agencies committed to working together to increase the number of people taking part in sport and physical activity. CSPs deliver Sport England programmes such as Sportivate on a local level.
Find your local CSP on the County Sports Partnership Network website via: www.cspnetwork.org/your-csp
Wolf, being active
Wolf lives in Essex, and is a keen cyclist. He says that people often don’t realise he is disabled. He features in the new EFDS ‘Me, being active’ video series (featured on the EFDS website). The films highlight individual disabled people’s stories of being active and echo advice contained within the Being Active Guide.
Wolf says: “I can just get on my bike, go out and get myself fitter. I don’t look thin or skinny, but inside I’m much fitter.
People do forget that I’ve got a disability. I actually prefer that – I’d rather people focused on me than on my disability. It’s all about the buzz, the enjoyment. When I’m going out, everyone always comments on how I’m always smiling. And I am – I’m going out and I’m enjoying it.”