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New study confirms benefits of being active

An evaluation of a four year programme to encourage disabled people to take up sports and physical activity shows disabled people who get active are likely to experience improved mental and physical wellbeing as a result. 

Swimming teacher supporting visually impaired man in swimming poolThe research has been published at the launch of an evaluation of ‘Get Yourself Active’, a four year programme run by Disability Rights UK and funded by the National Lottery through Sport England. The programme looked at ways to encourage disabled people to get involved in sport and become more active.

The key evaluation findings include:

  • Many disabled people (75 per cent) are simply unaware of what facilities are available
  • The cost of activities (21 per cent) and inaccessible facilities (18 per cent) were also cited as things that got in the way of getting active
  • Health and social care workers have a key role in supporting people to get active
  • Local disabled people’s organisations can advise leisure providers on making their services more accessible to disabled customers
  • Disabled people’s organisations can also act as link between disabled people and local physical activity provision

Although more research is needed, the evaluation also suggested taking part in physical activity could reduce the use of social care and GP services. 

Leanne Wightman, Project Coordinator at Disability Rights UK said:

"The benefits of sport and physical activity are well documented. However, there is a significant knowledge gap about the benefits of physical activity as well as how and where you can get involved. This new research identifies some of the ways the health and social care and leisure sectors can better work with disabled people to improve access to local knowledge and provision.

"It also shows that regular physical activity means people are less likely to make demands on hard pressed social care and health services. We do need more research on this, but the combination of benefits suggests that supporting disabled people to be more active doesn’t just improve the quality of life of disabled people; it also takes the pressure off the statutory sector."

Tim Hollingsworth, Sport England Chief Executive, said:

"The results of this research are welcome but not totally surprising as they confirm previous insight into the benefits of an active life.  We also know that too many disabled people face significant barriers in reaching these benefits and are twice as likely to be inactive compared with non-disabled people. Sport England is determined to turn this picture around.

"To do that the whole sector must take on the challenge to think differently about the services they provide and the way they provide them, putting disabled people at the heart of decision making, all while ensuring they have consistent information and support from health and social workers, to access the clear benefits of regular sport and physical activity."

The Get Yourself Active programme saw disabled people’s organisations working with a range of local organisations, including health and social care professionals and sport and leisure providers, as well as with disabled people directly, to create sporting and activity opportunities for them.

The programme also worked at a national level with policy makers and professional bodies. It focused on understanding the value and benefits of using personal budgets for people wanting to use their funds for sport and physical activity.

Details of the Get Yourself Active programme are available from Get Yourself Active website. The full evaluation report is available to download on their website.