Do you want to know how to train disabled populations? Or how to find a trainer who is qualified to train people with disabilities? Or perhaps you have a disability and are wondering if you too can have a career in fitness. Read on to find the answers.
According to government figures, one in five people in the UK are living with some form of disability, and less than 8% are achieving the recommended daily levels of physical activity. Yet having a disability should not be an absolute barrier to improving fitness.
The safest way to gain proficiency in an exercise regime is to have the best advice from a professional personal trainer. However, there aren't many who understand the special needs of a person with a physical disability. And indeed, if a trainer is not suitably qualified, they are not insured to work with people with disabilities and will unfortunately likely have to turn them away.
There only a very few substantial qualifications available in this area, such as “Level 3 Certificate in Exercise for Disabled Clients”. Not only that, but most training course providers don’t teach them. For a current list of which organisations are teaching such courses in the UK, open this table of personal trainer qualifications and filter it using the search term “disabled”.
One trainer who specialises in training people with disabilities is Dom Thorpe, who started his own company specialising in helping people with all kinds of disabilities to get fit. He says that for trainers working with disabled clients it is necessary to “think outside the box”. It's no use giving the same advice as to able-bodied clients. You have to fully understand each client's limitations. And for disabled people who wish to get fit and healthy, “the biggest thing to remember is that there’s always something you can do.”
People with a disability have as much to gain from a supervised programme of exercise as anyone. While exercising on your own does make the body physically stronger and thereby better able to do everyday tasks, working with a trainer is not only about improving your body – as personal trainer Ondrej Matej told us, an experienced trainer “often ends up being a life coach as well, whether formally qualified in it or not”. In addition to the psychological support from someone who is always in your corner, you’re more likely to stick to a regular exercise routine, which itself has mental benefits – your body releases endorphins, which improve your mood, relieve stress, and boost your self-esteem. Exercise can even be effective in helping mild to medium depression.
And what if you are disabled yourself and want to train disabled clients? You might be tempted to think it’s not possible. And national research funded by YMCA did find public opinion held that the most difficult job for a disabled person would be as a personal trainer.
But opinion isn’t fact. In order to change this state of affairs, YMCA, in association with Aspire, a national charity working with spinal cord injuries, funded a pilot scheme called Instructability. This multi-awarding programme is designed to give the disabled access to a specialised course leading to a Level 2 Award in Gym based Fitness Instruction, thereby allowing graduates to find employment in the fitness industry. A hoped-for by-product is to raise the number of disabled people who visit the gym.
So there you have it. Now you know how to check that your trainer is properly qualified – or get qualified yourself!
Written by Paul Partington for VERCIDA.