National Fitness Day in Ireland takes place on the 29th September. Ireland Active are the chief organisers of National Fitness Day, and are working closely with CARA, one of their active partners, to provide everyone around the country with an opportunity to get active for free.

According to the Healthy People 2010 report, 56% of adults with disabilities do not engage in any leisure-time physical activity compared to 36% among adults without disability. (“Physical Activity Participation among Persons with Disabilities. Barriers and Facilitators. James H. Rimmer et al 2004)

With little over 40% of people with a disability engaging in any leisure time physical activity we have to ask the question.  Are leisure and recreation providers continuing to miss out on the opportunities that exist to engage everyone in meaningful, recreation, physical and leisure activities?

National Fitness Day, will give hundreds of clubs, parks, leisure centres, fitness facilities etc. the opportunity to open their doors to welcome people of all abilities for free.  Hundreds of events and programmes will be held across the country and we want to make sure that they are as inclusive and accessible as they can be.  Events can take any form as long as they are free for the public to participate and involve physical activity of some sort.

Provide Activities that people with disabilities will want to do.

We all know the great benefits that are linked to regular exercise and leisure opportunities including a healthier heart and a better quality of life etc.   Research shows on ‘Physical activity, Health and Quality of Life among People with Disabilities’ from 2006 shows that people with disabilities who met the recommended level of daily physical activity were more likely to report a good quality of life, compared to their less active peers. (Get Ireland Active!  The National Physical Activity Plan for Ireland, Hannon F, Fitzsimon N, Kelleher C. Physical activity, Health and Quality of Life among People with Disabilities: An Analysis of the SLÁN data.  National Disability Authority. 2006)

To attract more people with disabilities as well as their family and friends, it is important that sport, recreation and fitness providers promote what opportunities they are providing using positive inclusive imagery into their local community and catchment areas.   If we fail to let people know what is happening they will fail to come!!

Furthermore, more often than not, people with disabilities are looking for opportunities, which are as likely to also appeal to their friends and family. In the Lifestyle Report, more than six in ten (64%) people with disabilities said they would prefer to take part in sport and physical activity with a mix of people with disabilities and those without disabilities. Fitness providers are in a great position to deliver more opportunities which match this crucial finding.

As well as the gym environment itself, there are lots of examples of facilities delivering mixed classes. Whilst it is acknowledged that a mixed setting is not always suitable for all sport and physical activity situations, more can be done to increase the number of offers available. For example, the Lifestyle report showed that three in ten people with disabilities currently use the gym. Gyms are usually within facilities that provide other opportunities such as swimming pools and sports halls. Combining activity offers and promotion placement can have many advantages.

Let’s get FIT4ALL

Top tips for fitness facilities

  • Accreditation: Consider the Ireland Active White Flag Disability Category Award to celebrate your facility’s inclusive environment. It is assessed every year and accredited at one of three levels to support continuous improvement and ensures inclusion is achievable from entry level to excellence. 
  • Insight on and market research with disabled people: knowing more about the demographics people with disabilities, their interests and information points in your local area can really help you to add value and fill in the service gaps. Perhaps set up your own forum to support your policies, processes and promotions for people with disabilities.
  • Monitor and improve customer services: increase your channels for feedback from customers with disabilities and the potential customers, who could be tempted to use your facility. It is a crucial part of marketing to identify and satisfy customer needs.
  • Workforce training: as well as your customers, the people who work as staff or volunteers in your facility are your most valuable asset. Training is available to ensure your facility is welcoming to everyone. Perhaps have your own method to recognise their achievements to champion inclusion. Talk to Brenda in CARA about CARA’s Inclusive Fitness Training!
  • Use inclusive imagery: include people with disabilities on promotional and marketing material. This includes leaflets, banners and especially websites. Include imagery which shows disabled people enjoying your facility.
  • Widen your reach: identify local disability groups, GP referrals, local public and voluntary organisations.
  • Come and try: open days and taster sessions can often be a good way for everyone to experience your facility. Trial periods also support a person’s decision-making.

Ireland Active National Fitness Day Website will give you more information about National Fitness Day on how to register or where you can participate on the day. 

 For more information about how to make your leisure facility or gym more inclusive contact Brenda O’Donnell Inclusive Fitness Coordinator for CARA at or 01 6251160