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Published: Tuesday, 11th May 2021

A new exercise programme for 64 adults with learning disabilities is being run following a successful funding bid by the Greenwich Community Learning Disability Team (part of Oxleas Foundation Trust).

The Trust secured funding from multiple sources including the Health Innovation Network, Mencap, Oxleas and the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

The programme, which service users have named ‘Fun and Fitness’, is being delivered by Greenwich Leisure. Up to four sessions a week are being provided over the coming year. Activities include a range of exercises and sporting opportunities tailored to the needs of people with a learning disability. Activity Trackers are also being provided to help people keep a track of their progress.

Councillor Miranda Williams, Cabinet Member for Health and Adults’ Social Care at the Royal Borough of Greenwich, said: “It’s even more important that we all continue to keep fit and healthy while the COVID-19 pandemic remains, to keep us strong and fighting fit. These Zoom sessions are a great way for people to keep fit and I’m so pleased that people are really enjoying the work-outs!”

Lesley Soden, Programme Director for Innovation at the Health Innovation Network, said: “The impact of Covid-19 on our NHS services means that we need to look at different ways of working to improve health and care for people in south London. This funding is crucial to kick-start innovation projects to test out different innovations and new ways of partnership working. NHS teams often struggle to find substantial funding to pilot new ideas in real-world settings to demonstrate the kind of results they need for support for wider roll out across regions and potentially nationally.”

Sophia Lowe, a qualified group exercise instructor with Better Leisure and working with the sports development team at the council, said: “I’ve been teaching Zoom classes to the Oxleas community during these unprecedented times. The participants are amazing and have fully embraced the project, with positivity expressed by everyone who takes part in the classes. The atmosphere is both inspiring and infectious which fills me with great joy and satisfaction as an instructor working with such an awesome group of people."

Thirty people have already engaged with Fun and Fitness via video call sessions offered by a personal trainer and as COVID-19 restrictions ease these groups will be offered in the community.  The programme aims to improve the physical health of people with learning disabilities who have a life expectancy around 25 years below the general population and who have been 4-6 times more likely to have died due to COVID-19.

Find out more about the Health Innovation Network’s grant scheme