Friday, 5 February 2016

The Growth of Inclusive Sport in the UK

If you think sport is just for keep-fit fanatics, Sunday footballers, and those with too much time on their hands, think again – sport can play a part in everyone’s life to not only maintain a healthy body, but a healthy and active mind too. 
And that goes for everyone, regardless of age or ability level.  The growth of inclusive sport means that virtually anybody can get involved and experience the physical and psychological benefits that are associated with sport, exercise and social-interaction with like-minded people.  

The Inclusive Sport programme is a Sport England initiative designed to increase participation among disabled adults and young people from the age 14 upwards.  
The project is part of Sport England’s wider remit to increase regular sport participation by disabled people, and so far there have been two rounds of Inclusive Sport that have seen 88 projects benefit from almost £20 million of National Lottery investment. 
It’s not all about getting everyone playing football, netball or cricket though, as traditional team sports are simply no fun for those who have sensory issues, and difficulties with communication and social skills. 
Similarly, more individual pursuits such as running and cycling may not be suitable for those who limited mobility or who suffer with fatigue, though there are real strides being made to make these pursuits more fully inclusive, notably adapting bicycles for those with special needs. 
What are the benefits of physical activity? Physical activity benefits both the body and the mind and participation for people of all physical-abilities, is inextricably linked to both better physical and mental wellbeing and the noticeable benefits include: 
  • Improvement in muscle coordination, flexibility, muscle strength and endurance, all of which can increase life expectancy. 
  • Improvement in self-confidence, social skills, behaviour and academic performance. 
  • Positive experiences of achievement and accomplishment, both personally and as part of a team. 
  • Increase in attention span and responsiveness to others. 
  • Can help cut secondary health complications like obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. 
  • Offer and outlet for physical energy that can help alleviate stress, anxiety and depression. 
Promoting physical activity If you know someone who is simply not interested in physical activity it can be near impossible getting them out and about, so you need to think outside the box and suggest activities that promote movement without being to ‘sporty’ or excessively vigorous. 
So you could consider things such as: 
  • Walking around the local park and collecting rocks, leaves, and flowers which can be used later on as part of an art project. 
  • Gardening can also be a great way to promote outdoor physical activity and have tangible end results to be proud of. 
  • Playing catch with a friend or even the family dog 
  • Learning skills such as juggling, balancing or kite flying. 
  • Playing games with hula hoops, gymnastic ribbons or skipping ropes. 
  • Taking part in sports that can still be fun without being overly competitive, for instance bowling, table tennis or swimming. 
Playing video games On the face of it, encouraging kids to play video games is a sure fire way to promote a sedentary lifestyle, but there are games designed to get everyone up and active. This can be a fun and practical way of introducing physical activity, especially to anyone who is self-conscious and would prefer to exercise in the privacy of his or her home. 
Instead of sitting in front of Mario Kart or Call of Duty, try some of these instead:  
  • Wii Fit Plus has a balance board and game software that promotes all kinds of physical activity such as yoga and Pilates, and even things like boxing and tennis on Wii Sports can offer a fairly rigorous workout.  
  • Just Dance is a game that is available on all consoles and promotes exercise through fun dance routines to famous songs. 
  • Kinect Sport Ultimate Sport Collection is similar to Wii Sports but is available on Xbox. This game includes sports like basketball, football, beach volleyball and boxing, all of which must be played using bodily movements instead of a traditional controller. 
Have you seen first-hand the positive effect being active can have on an individual? Or have you come up with some inventive ways to promote physical activity? Share your experiences with us in the comments section below…