Making fitness fun for adults with learning disabilities in Greenwich

    April 5, 2022


    Post Title

    To celebrate World Health Day we caught up with Daniel Bank, Greenwich Leisure Limited, to hear about one of our in-progress HIN Innovation Grant winning projects which aims to improve the physical and mental health of people with special needs.

    UPDATE: You can now read the full evaluation of this project.

    Mencap commissioned spear, (The Centre for Sport, Physical Education & Activity Research) at Canterbury Christchurch University to undertake an evaluation of their Round the World Challenge (RTWC) project. As part of their evaluation, they produced a report along with five case studies, one of which is described here.

    Fun and Fitness is a community sports development programme to support adults with learning disabilities to increase the amount of exercise they do and improve their physical and mental health. It’s taking place in Greenwich, linking up a host of key partners including Royal Borough of Greenwich, Oxleas NHS foundations Trust and Greenwich Leisure Limited. They’re hoping to share their learning with other boroughs so they can replicate the programme and expand to invite more users.

    Key aims of the project

    • To increase levels of physical activity, especially in those who are currently not very active
    • To monitor participant’s weekly movement through digital trackers
    • To improve physical health metrics like BMI, blood pressure and heart rate
    • To create an enjoyable and safe space for participants
    • To improve participant’s mental health
    • To provide equipment to help participants be active in their free time, outside of the programme

    The project began virtually on Zoom with gentle chair-based exercises, then once Covid rules were relaxed, the sessions began to take place in real life at the Waterfront Leisure Centre in Woolwich, Greenwich. The participants were guided by Sophia Loew, a GLL fitness instructor.

    The project coordinators made sure that any information that was needed for the programme was accessible to participants by creating easy read guides about the programme and the leisure centre. This clearly paid off as one participant described knowing where to be and when as “a piece of cake” and another said it was “simply easy”

    Knowing when to be and where was “a piece of cake” with the specially produced easy read guides produced for the programme

    The group really enjoyed meeting in person and attendance improved when the group could meet at the leisure centre rather than online.

    But it didn’t stop there – participants who wanted to go even further and exercise outside of the sessions were given digital exercise trackers and trained how to use them.

    What were the outcomes?

    While we are still waiting for additional data on physical health metrics like BMI, blood pressure and resting heart rate, there were positive individual improvements in some participants.

    The group were provided with a questionnaire (sample below) about their mental health before the programme and will be asked to fill it in again afterwards so we can monitor if there has been any improvement in their mental health.

    While we are still waiting for official data, testimony from participants like “The instructor, Sophia, she makes me laugh”, and a growing demand for spaces on the programme leads us to believe the project is proven successful.