With 1.2 million wheelchair users in the UK, there’s increasing demand for improved opportunities for disabled-friendly sport.
Getting active offers important health benefits for wheelchair users and can significantly improve their everyday life.
Regular physical activity is good for physical and mental wellbeing and can be a great way to meet new people. But perhaps due to a lack of knowledge, inaccessible locations or negative attitudes, only 18% of adults with disabilities participate in at least one physical activity session each week. This means that people with disabilities are the least physically active group within society.
Importance of staying active
Leading an active lifestyle is important for everyone. Being active positively affects your mental and physical health and encourages you into healthy habits. Taking part in sport is a great way to socialise and meet new people with similar interests. It also helps you to burn calories and maintain muscle tone. Even a low-intensity activity will be good for you and help boost metabolism, circulation and help to improve sleep.
Inspiring others to take up a sport
Ricky Perrin from Sussex lost the use of his legs after falling from a window nearly 12 years ago. Since his accident, Ricky has used sport to help him stay fit and active. Now Ricky wants to encourage other wheelchair users to take up a sport and helped to organise a special sporting event with Brighton and Hove Albion FC’s charity, ‘Albion in the Community’ and wheelchair basketball team, the Sussex Bears. Wheelchair rugby club, The Brighton Buccaneers, also came along to demonstrate wheelchair sports.
Ricky knows from personal experience that the benefits from sport for disabled people are more than just about improving fitness. He believes that sport gives people more independence and a much better quality of life. Furthermore, it will inevitably have significant financial benefits for the country as a whole too, with the UK potentially saving thousands in care and medical costs.
How much activity should you do?
Adults aged from 19 to 64 should do at least two and a half hours of moderate aerobic activity a week, alongside at least two sessions of muscle strengthening exercises. But many wheelchair users are not doing anywhere near this recommendation. However, when you first get started, don’t worry too much about hitting these targets. Instead, concentrate on finding an activity or sport that you really enjoy. Aim to start by doing a 10-minute session each day and gradually build it up.
If you’re not very active at the moment, you can start by gradually increasing everyday physical activities. And by doing some simple research, you can find an array of appropriate activities and sports in your area through charities, health centres and local councils. The English Federation of Disability Sport can also provide you with programmes and sports in your local area.
Trying a new sport or activity may seem daunting, but you won’t be expected to take part at Paralympic level! In fact, the most important thing is finding something you really enjoy, whatever your age and ability. There’s something out there for everyone.