Disability Sport: Pilates in place of Visually Impaired Football during lockdown

A ‘Stay Active’ campaign to encourage people with disabilities to move more and try new ways of being active, whether at home or when going outside for exercise, launched this week.

Many of us have found ourselves spending increased amounts of time at home and sitting down more than usual since the coronavirus pandemic started. Lockdown has made it hard for people to be as active as normal and people with a disability may have felt even more isolated, and been less active, during this time.

However the Stay Active campaign raises awareness of the many ways people with a disability can continue to enjoy an active lifestyle during lockdown, by adapting activities or a change in sporting routines.

Protecting residents’ physical and mental health is one of Peterborough City Council’s highest priorities since the outbreak of COVID-19.

Stay Active is reaching out to support people with a disability, to keep them safe and well, and encourage them to be active during this time by finding out what works for them. The campaign ties in the Activity Alliance ‘at home’ programme - a charity working to make active lives possible with a vision that disabled people are active for life.

Living Sport, the Active Partnership for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, has a dedicated web page with links and advice to inspire people to adapt their current activities and sports to maintain their physical activity or find new opportunities to keep moving whilst in and around the house.

Taking part in any form of physical activity can help to manage complications by improving muscle stamina and strength, helping control joint swelling, and reducing stress and pain. Regular physical activity can also help to reduce high blood pressure, manage weight and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and various cancers – all conditions that can increase susceptibility to COVID-19.

It is also good for our mental health. Regular physical activity reduces the risk of depression, cognitive decline and helps to lift our overall feelings. Being active also helps to give days a routine and can be a way to stay in contact with family and friends. It may be surprising how much the benefits of trying something new can help improve day to day routines.

Peterborough resident Mark, 38, has been getting active in a new and different way since lockdown. Mark, who is registered as visually impaired, does weights at home and normally participates in Visually Impaired Football. When the rules about social distancing and exercise came into force though, Mark decided to give online Pilates a try.

Mark case study

Mark said: “Pilates is something I wouldn’t normally do because of my eyesight. First I’d have had to travel there, then I’d have to be at the front of the class - in view of all the other class members - and I’d have been worried in case I couldn’t do the exercises as I wasn’t very flexible, and consequently I’d have felt very self-conscious which put me off trying it.

“However, doing Pilates online I can have one-to-one tuition which eliminates those fears and has allowed me to remain active and enjoy an activity I was too scared to try before, all from the comfort of my own home. There’s no travel time to factor in or working out how I’d get there.”

Mark went on to share what the classes have meant to him, and has advice for anyone who might not be sure if online classes are for them. He said: “I definitely want to carry on with the online Pilates classes after the lockdown restrictions are lifted. I can feel the benefits both physically and mentally - my posture and core strength has improved and I’ve always found that exercise helps me to de-stress. If anyone is in a similar situation to me, I recommend they go on the council website or get in contact with British Blind Sport to find a class that suits them.”

You can hear what else Mark had to say in this short YouTube video.

Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald, Deputy Leader of Peterborough City Council and Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, Health and Public Health said: “Staying active is incredibly important, and especially so if you have a disability. Being physically active improves your stamina, muscle strength and balance, and can also reduce stress and pain. No matter what level of activity you find you can manage, it is always very much worth it.”

Find out more about getting or staying active during COVID-19 on the Living Sport webpage.