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UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

Disability fitness: Expanding horizons

Becca Douglas takes a look at some of the initiatives aiming to deliver a legacy from the London 2012 Paralympics

By Becca Douglas | Published in Health Club Management 2013 issue 6

2012 will be remembered as an amazing summer of sport for Great Britain – not only in terms of the medal table and the achievements of Team GB, but also the fact that it shone a spotlight on the home-grown Paralympians who live and train in our facilities day in, day out.

Legacy was the watchword in the build-up to the Games, so what’s being done at a grassroots level to encourage and enable more disabled people into sport and physical activities, at all ages and all levels of ability?

Martin McElhatton, CEO of WheelPower – the national charity for wheelchair sport – says: “More than a thousand men, women and children in the UK are paralysed due to an accident or illness every year. Many more people acquire a disability that means they need to use a wheelchair. Through sport and regular physical activity, those whose lives have been traumatically changed can enjoy the tremendous physical and psychological benefits of participation, and indeed competition.”

But where would you go if you were disabled tomorrow? Would you be happy to go to your local leisure centre and train in the gym with everyone else? For some, the answer would be ‘yes’, but for others more is needed to stimulate their bodies and brains too.

Welcoming newcomers
Last year saw the 25th annual spinal unit games at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, welcoming the 13 spinal units from across the UK. Promoting a healthy and active lifestyle through sport for people who have been paralysed in the last year, the games feature a mix of competition and ‘have a go’ sessions, allowing participants to experience a wide range of sports. Archery, table tennis, bowls, swimming and shooting are among the activities on offer.

McElhatton says: “The games is a great programme to inspire and encourage newly paralysed people into physical activity. We recognise that competitive sport isn’t for everyone, but the ‘have a go’ sessions are great to inspire and encourage a broader range of people. We’d love to see this rolled out across the UK, working with more operators to host similar events.”

‘Use it or lose it’
For some operators, disability provision has only recently started to come to the fore, but Watford Leisure Centre has been successfully running its Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis class for the past 17 years.

With a motto of ‘use it or lose it’, the class is about prevention as much as cure, helping those with Parkinson’s and MS to preserve their mobility, balance and co-ordination, while at the same time exercising the muscles with the aim of preserving as much body movement and control as possible. Exercises have been devised in conjunction with staff from the Hertfordshire Neurological Rehabilitation Centre.

The class has, says the centre, benefited from the continuity and quality of instructors, who have helped maintain a fresh approach over the years.

Inclusive approach
Leisure Connection doesn’t believe there needs to be a division between disabled and non-disabled users, and the company runs a number of mixed classes in its sports halls each week. These encourage disabled and non-disabled users to compete on a level playing field in activities such as wheelchair basketball.

Kevin Yates, head of fitness, marketing and communications, says: “Our users love the inclusive wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball classes. They inspire each other and friendships form very quickly. In no time, we find that members who were just coming in for wheelchair basketball are now training in the gym or taking part in group cycling classes with these friends using Krank cycles. It’s truly moving.”

Leisure Connection is also appointing a disability sports champion, whose job it will be to ensure the very best of disability and inclusive sport is shared and enhanced in all centres and with all stakeholders, coupled with ongoing training at all sites.

Starting young
It’s arguably even more important that children who are paralysed find sport early in their life, or early into their condition. In April 2013, WheelPower and Leisure Connection provided 120 young disabled people aged between 11 and 18 years – from the east London boroughs of Greenwich, Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest, Havering and Barking & Dagenham – with a unique sporting and cultural event at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, the birthplace of the Paralympic Games.

Time to Shine was a free initiative for the young participants thanks to funding from the Mace Foundation. Attendees were able to experience a wide variety of inclusive sporting activities – run by qualified coaches and volunteers and designed to suit all abilities – including volleyball, archery, street dance, swimming and much more. There was a mixture of ‘have a go’ and competitive activities, with youngsters taking part alongside others of a similar age group and in their borough teams.

Ian Seabrook, business development manager at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, says: “We offer many programmes for disabled people locally, nationally and internationally, but what made this special was that Time to Shine took participants away from their day-to-day lives and empowered them physically and mentally. The key to delivering sustainable and effective programmes is the mental stimulation they provide too. Crack this and the programmes will grow and grow.”

It’s not always long-term…
Being confined to a wheelchair may not always be permanent. For example, every year 150,000 people in the UK suffer a stroke and the consequences, although varied, can include weakness in an arm, leg or both depending on the severity of the stroke; it can sometimes lead to short- or long-term paralysis.

Exercise and physical activity can not only aid the physical symptoms, but can also help with mental health issues such as depression. Impulse Leisure, in partnership with Thurrock Council, therefore runs the Thurrock Stroke Network. Through specially designed group exercises classes, the network aims to aid independent living and provide a supportive social structure to enhance quality of life for those who have had a stroke.

Clients of all ages attend the classes twice a week, with each client assessed and personal goals set. The classes deliver mixed activities, including use of a Technogym Kinesis wall, a light wall, boxing stations and badminton. Impulse Leisure is looking to extend the sessions and a study is currently underway to measure outcomes among attendees. However, marked improvements – both physical and mental – have already been observed among users of the service.

Education is key
It’s not just leisure operators that need to be driving innovation in this area; the relevant education to support the delivery also needs to stay one step ahead of the curve.
InstructAbility is a programme created by YMCAfit in conjunction with spinal injury charity Aspire. It offers unemployed disabled people the opportunity to train as fitness instructors, with a view to them working in gyms and running community outreach activities specifically targeting disabled people, to get them participating in fitness and sporting activities.

The programme has won awards for its innovation, not only in terms of providing employment opportunities for disabled people, but also inspiring a new generation of potential Paralympic athletes – the programme is able to reach new audiences of disabled people who have either been put off participating in these activities in the past or not considered it as a viable option for them.

The programme has been delivered in a few areas of London to date, and one in four InstructAbility graduates have gone on to gain employment. Employers include Virgin Active, Fitness First, YMCA, GLL and Fusion.

Case study - Spencer Vaughan

Spencer Vaughan has always been a very active, sporty person. He played rugby and enjoyed surfing and motor-cross. He joined the Royal Marines when he was 20 years old.

During his first year of general duties, while on an adventure training exercise, he sustained a spinal cord injury that left him paralysed from the chest down. He participated in the InstructAbility course and, once qualified, entered phase two of the programme with a work placement at Everyone Active’s Plymouth Life Centre.

Guy Westwood, fitness manager at the Plymouth Life Centre, says: “Spencer’s enthusiasm and willingness has been an inspiration to the team and customers alike. Staff have gained a far better knowledge of the daily challenges wheelchair users face.”

InstructAbility has given spinal injury victim Vaughan a new career
InstructAbility has given spinal injury victim Vaughan a new career
Leisure Connection: Wheelchair sports for disabled and able-bodied
Leisure Connection: Wheelchair sports for disabled and able-bodied
IntructAbility: Jobless disabled people can gain fitness qualifications
IntructAbility: Jobless disabled people can gain fitness qualifications
Impulse Leisure runs group exercise programmes for stroke and cardiac rehab patients
Impulse Leisure runs group exercise programmes for stroke and cardiac rehab patients
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/HCM2013_6fitness.gif
Becca Douglas takes a look at some of the initiatives aiming to deliver a legacy from last year's London Paralympic Games
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features

Disability fitness: Expanding horizons

Becca Douglas takes a look at some of the initiatives aiming to deliver a legacy from the London 2012 Paralympics

By Becca Douglas | Published in Health Club Management 2013 issue 6

2012 will be remembered as an amazing summer of sport for Great Britain – not only in terms of the medal table and the achievements of Team GB, but also the fact that it shone a spotlight on the home-grown Paralympians who live and train in our facilities day in, day out.

Legacy was the watchword in the build-up to the Games, so what’s being done at a grassroots level to encourage and enable more disabled people into sport and physical activities, at all ages and all levels of ability?

Martin McElhatton, CEO of WheelPower – the national charity for wheelchair sport – says: “More than a thousand men, women and children in the UK are paralysed due to an accident or illness every year. Many more people acquire a disability that means they need to use a wheelchair. Through sport and regular physical activity, those whose lives have been traumatically changed can enjoy the tremendous physical and psychological benefits of participation, and indeed competition.”

But where would you go if you were disabled tomorrow? Would you be happy to go to your local leisure centre and train in the gym with everyone else? For some, the answer would be ‘yes’, but for others more is needed to stimulate their bodies and brains too.

Welcoming newcomers
Last year saw the 25th annual spinal unit games at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, welcoming the 13 spinal units from across the UK. Promoting a healthy and active lifestyle through sport for people who have been paralysed in the last year, the games feature a mix of competition and ‘have a go’ sessions, allowing participants to experience a wide range of sports. Archery, table tennis, bowls, swimming and shooting are among the activities on offer.

McElhatton says: “The games is a great programme to inspire and encourage newly paralysed people into physical activity. We recognise that competitive sport isn’t for everyone, but the ‘have a go’ sessions are great to inspire and encourage a broader range of people. We’d love to see this rolled out across the UK, working with more operators to host similar events.”

‘Use it or lose it’
For some operators, disability provision has only recently started to come to the fore, but Watford Leisure Centre has been successfully running its Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis class for the past 17 years.

With a motto of ‘use it or lose it’, the class is about prevention as much as cure, helping those with Parkinson’s and MS to preserve their mobility, balance and co-ordination, while at the same time exercising the muscles with the aim of preserving as much body movement and control as possible. Exercises have been devised in conjunction with staff from the Hertfordshire Neurological Rehabilitation Centre.

The class has, says the centre, benefited from the continuity and quality of instructors, who have helped maintain a fresh approach over the years.

Inclusive approach
Leisure Connection doesn’t believe there needs to be a division between disabled and non-disabled users, and the company runs a number of mixed classes in its sports halls each week. These encourage disabled and non-disabled users to compete on a level playing field in activities such as wheelchair basketball.

Kevin Yates, head of fitness, marketing and communications, says: “Our users love the inclusive wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball classes. They inspire each other and friendships form very quickly. In no time, we find that members who were just coming in for wheelchair basketball are now training in the gym or taking part in group cycling classes with these friends using Krank cycles. It’s truly moving.”

Leisure Connection is also appointing a disability sports champion, whose job it will be to ensure the very best of disability and inclusive sport is shared and enhanced in all centres and with all stakeholders, coupled with ongoing training at all sites.

Starting young
It’s arguably even more important that children who are paralysed find sport early in their life, or early into their condition. In April 2013, WheelPower and Leisure Connection provided 120 young disabled people aged between 11 and 18 years – from the east London boroughs of Greenwich, Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest, Havering and Barking & Dagenham – with a unique sporting and cultural event at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, the birthplace of the Paralympic Games.

Time to Shine was a free initiative for the young participants thanks to funding from the Mace Foundation. Attendees were able to experience a wide variety of inclusive sporting activities – run by qualified coaches and volunteers and designed to suit all abilities – including volleyball, archery, street dance, swimming and much more. There was a mixture of ‘have a go’ and competitive activities, with youngsters taking part alongside others of a similar age group and in their borough teams.

Ian Seabrook, business development manager at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, says: “We offer many programmes for disabled people locally, nationally and internationally, but what made this special was that Time to Shine took participants away from their day-to-day lives and empowered them physically and mentally. The key to delivering sustainable and effective programmes is the mental stimulation they provide too. Crack this and the programmes will grow and grow.”

It’s not always long-term…
Being confined to a wheelchair may not always be permanent. For example, every year 150,000 people in the UK suffer a stroke and the consequences, although varied, can include weakness in an arm, leg or both depending on the severity of the stroke; it can sometimes lead to short- or long-term paralysis.

Exercise and physical activity can not only aid the physical symptoms, but can also help with mental health issues such as depression. Impulse Leisure, in partnership with Thurrock Council, therefore runs the Thurrock Stroke Network. Through specially designed group exercises classes, the network aims to aid independent living and provide a supportive social structure to enhance quality of life for those who have had a stroke.

Clients of all ages attend the classes twice a week, with each client assessed and personal goals set. The classes deliver mixed activities, including use of a Technogym Kinesis wall, a light wall, boxing stations and badminton. Impulse Leisure is looking to extend the sessions and a study is currently underway to measure outcomes among attendees. However, marked improvements – both physical and mental – have already been observed among users of the service.

Education is key
It’s not just leisure operators that need to be driving innovation in this area; the relevant education to support the delivery also needs to stay one step ahead of the curve.
InstructAbility is a programme created by YMCAfit in conjunction with spinal injury charity Aspire. It offers unemployed disabled people the opportunity to train as fitness instructors, with a view to them working in gyms and running community outreach activities specifically targeting disabled people, to get them participating in fitness and sporting activities.

The programme has won awards for its innovation, not only in terms of providing employment opportunities for disabled people, but also inspiring a new generation of potential Paralympic athletes – the programme is able to reach new audiences of disabled people who have either been put off participating in these activities in the past or not considered it as a viable option for them.

The programme has been delivered in a few areas of London to date, and one in four InstructAbility graduates have gone on to gain employment. Employers include Virgin Active, Fitness First, YMCA, GLL and Fusion.

Case study - Spencer Vaughan

Spencer Vaughan has always been a very active, sporty person. He played rugby and enjoyed surfing and motor-cross. He joined the Royal Marines when he was 20 years old.

During his first year of general duties, while on an adventure training exercise, he sustained a spinal cord injury that left him paralysed from the chest down. He participated in the InstructAbility course and, once qualified, entered phase two of the programme with a work placement at Everyone Active’s Plymouth Life Centre.

Guy Westwood, fitness manager at the Plymouth Life Centre, says: “Spencer’s enthusiasm and willingness has been an inspiration to the team and customers alike. Staff have gained a far better knowledge of the daily challenges wheelchair users face.”

InstructAbility has given spinal injury victim Vaughan a new career
InstructAbility has given spinal injury victim Vaughan a new career
Leisure Connection: Wheelchair sports for disabled and able-bodied
Leisure Connection: Wheelchair sports for disabled and able-bodied
IntructAbility: Jobless disabled people can gain fitness qualifications
IntructAbility: Jobless disabled people can gain fitness qualifications
Impulse Leisure runs group exercise programmes for stroke and cardiac rehab patients
Impulse Leisure runs group exercise programmes for stroke and cardiac rehab patients
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/HCM2013_6fitness.gif
Becca Douglas takes a look at some of the initiatives aiming to deliver a legacy from last year's London Paralympic Games
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Opinion: Re-engaging your post-lockdown absent members
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You’re pumped and ready for your workout. Then you see it, the dreaded ‘out of order’ signs hanging from treadmills, weight machines or cross-trainers.
Featured operators news
Featured operator news: Being active helps Parkwood Leisure customers save the NHS £16m
Parkwood Leisure, one of the UK’s leading public leisure facilities operators, helped prevent more than 7,000 cases of stroke, dementia, depression and type 2 diabetes in 2019, saving the NHS £16 million, a new social value report has shown.
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We Create Training Spaces! We've been designing and delivering high quality training spaces for almost ...
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Company profile: Legend Club Management Systems (UK) Ltd
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Click on a catalogue to view it online
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Diary dates
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Locations worldwide,
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2021
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
28-29 Sep 2021
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
04-07 Nov 2021
Exhibition Centre , Cologne, Germany
Diary dates
01-07 Dec 2022
tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
Diary dates
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