By Liz Sayce
I’ve always found a short jog better than benzodiazepines (minor tranquillizers) for anxiety. Not everyone’s the same, but for me stress melts away with the rhythm of each step, the physical buzz, the relaxation that comes with a bit of gentle exercise. Right now I’m excited to be preparing to run (well, jog slowly) at Parallel London – where I’ll be jogging alongside people who are wheelchair racing, walking and otherwise covering the distance (which is anything from 100 metres to 10 kilometres). It’s inclusion in practice.
Wouldn’t it be great if everyone could easily get active, in any way they wanted? People are very different in what they do want. My sister in law thrives on swimming all year, even when it means breaking the ice, which to me sounds like torture (in fact when the world cold swimming championships happened in Tooting Lido, some participants complained the water was too warm because it was marginally above 0 degrees centigrade). Other people want to play softball, climb mountains or do a myriad of other things. Which is why we need a personal approach to enabling everyone living with impairments or health conditions to get active. It’s no good promoting outdoor swimming to me or mountain climbing to the person who wants to try softball.
This is why the Get Yourself Active programme is so important. It starts with what people want to get involved with – and makes getting active just one part of planning the support you want, to have a good life. It enables people to use a personal budget for any support you require to do the things you want to do, including physical activity. And it works to break down any barriers in the way. So in principle the sky should be limit in what people can choose to do.
Earlier attempts to engage disabled people to get active have not always been personal in this way. Particular sports have promoted what they offer – but that’s no good if sky-diving (say) isn’t your thing. Others have scouted for new talent for future Paralympics – but most people will no more be Paralympians than any non-disabled member of the British public will be an Olympian. And while health promotion campaigns are vital – and often great – there is still a risk that they can come across as telling you about the exercise you should be taking, rather than making it easier to do the exercise you want to have a go at.
So Get Yourself Active is important. It is testing out how a much more personal approach may encourage people to try getting active on their own terms. Disability Rights UK will share the learning far and wide. You can start by watching the latest in our series of films which follow different people, getting active in a way that is right for them.
Oh and if anyone would like to sponsor me, I am planning (rather optimistically) to jog 10 kilometres at Parallel London in September – see https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/LizSayce