The Inclusive Fitness Initiative (IFI) was set up in the early 2000’s by the English Federation of Disability Sports (EFDS) in response to some research which identified that disabled people were being excluded from the opportunities of regular participation in facility-based fitness and sports activities.
Therefore since 2001 the IFI has worked towards an ambition of providing every disabled person in England with access to an inclusive fitness facility (a suitable distance from home). This was helped between 2001 and 2006 when the IFI received £6 million from the Sport England Lottery Fund. In 2007, IFI launched a new programme which was given funding of £1.95 million by the National Sports Foundation to encourage more grassroots sports access for disabled people.
Therefore since the late 1990’s-early 2000’s, there has been a steady growth in the diversity of populations frequenting our fitness facilities. This has led to a significant shift in the type of participant and overall perception of those who use our fitness facilities across England – possibly peaking after the 2012 Paralympic Games. There is now a wide spectrum of gym users ranging from healthy adolescent and adults, looking for health and fitness gains to those with conditions referred by their healthcare professional as well as those with varying disabilities.
So with the correct training and qualifications, you as fitness instructors (gym, ETM, water-based) and Personal Trainers have the prospect to broaden your client base – with an estimated 1 in 10 of the UK population having some form of disability. Not only that, you have the opportunity to diversify your skills and knowledge and challenge your interpersonal skills by working with clients with varying disabilities.
By working with disabled clients you will be upskilling into a growing and evolving market in terms of clients, equipment and facilities available. This market is still relatively new for the fitness industry and this is reflected in the fact that once qualified you will be one of only around 100 instructors holding this REPs accredited qualification. In addition to this, there is also the opportunity to draw down funding from local charities and grants for inclusive exercise initiatives. Therefore if you a self-employed instructor/PT you could gain funding if you chose to work with disabled clients.
It should be remembered that not only will you be diversifying your job role and career pathway, but you can also embark on a journey which will be hugely rewarding both for you and your clients. As you can imagine disabled clients’ goals will differ greatly to your usual clients with emphasis focussing much more on maximising limited function and independence. Seemingly small advances in the gym will see huge lifestyle improvements for disabled clients in their home and social/work life and being a part of that is priceless.
If you are interested in working with disabled clients and want more information on the courses available. Please contact tutor support on 0845 257 8571.