University experts launch fitness programme for disabled people

Two lecturers from the University of Worcester’s Institute of Sport & Exercise Science are launching an innovative new fitness initiative – Push2Health – which aims to assist people with physical disabilities to improve their fitness and activity levels.

Dr Andrea Faull, who leads the University’s Sports Coaching Science and Disability degree, and Haydn Jarrett, an expert in physical activity for health, aim to abolish some of the barriers that face individuals with a physical disability who would like to improve their fitness, but are not sure how best to start.

The pilot programme, which also serves as a research project, will identify several routes within Worcester that are accessible for wheelchair users who wish to participate in an organised push/walk in order to boost their activity levels.

In addition, an adapted circuit based session will be provided which offers participants a chance to make use of the University’s facilities whilst aiming to help build confidence in a positive environment aimed at improving physical activity and strength, something that has been recognised to be a barrier to participation for individuals with a disability.

Experts from the University’s Institute of Sport & Exercise Science will assess each participant’s current level of fitness, advise on how to set realistic goals, and support each participant in supervised sessions throughout the eight week programme.

Dr Faull said: “We recognise that there are a lot of disabled people in the local area who would like to be more active, but aren’t sure of the best way to go about it. We have a great deal of expertise here at the University of Worcester in the field of sport and disability as well as range of state-of-the-art facilities that are fully accessible.

“I’m very excited about putting all that together in a package that helps people build their confidence, increase their social connections whilst also improving their fitness. In addition, the outcomes of programme have potential to be disseminated to others in the form of research, as a way of educating others and raising awareness of the benefits of adapted physical activity”.

The eight-week programme requires participants to attend one to two exercise sessions per week at set times organised to cater for those involved. Initial sessions will focus on baseline assessments of health and physical activity levels, satisfaction and target setting before participants can get straight into the activities.

Each week participants will go for a push/walk around one of the designated accessible wheelchair routes, at a pace to suit them and will then have the option to take part in the adapted circuit based session. These sessions are supervised, to ensure that everyone feels happy and comfortable with what they are being asked to do. There is scope for additional support above that of the initial pilot project which can be discussed with those involved for those with a view of continuing their physical activity programmes beyond the scope of the pilot programme.

Mark Stevens, a final year Sports Coaching Science and Disability sport student who is helping to lead the project under the guidance of Dr Faull, said: “The great thing about this programme is that it gives people a chance to try some fitness activities in a friendly environment where they don’t need to worry about not knowing what to do or how to get started.

“As a wheelchair user myself, I can see the need for such a project and that is one of the main reasons why I wanted to help Andrea and use the information to help educate others as part of my final year research project.”

The programme is designed for people who are able to push their own chairs, even if only for a relatively short distance, or indeed have another form of physical disability that may have prevented them from wanting to take part in more organised sports, yet want to do something to improve their general physical activity levels.

The project is open to men between the ages of 18 and 45, and women between the ages of 18 and 55. Despite these stipulations, the programme organisers are keen to hear from anyone with an interest in activities such as this, even if they feel they don’t fit the exact profile.

The 8 week pilot programme is free of charge, as an introductory offer and is set to start in January 2014.

For further information or to register your interest, please contact Dr Andrea Faull via email ata.faull@worc.ac.uk or push2health@gmail.com, or via telephone on 01905 855265.

You can also follow the project on twitter, @WorcPush2Health.