IFI Pilot Facilities- ten years on

It is ten years since the pilot phase of the Inclusive Fitness Initiative (IFI) ended with 29 pilot sites accredited. The pilot scheme launched the IFI successfully into the Sport England funded main scheme accrediting a further 150 facilities. We now have over 400 IFI Mark facilities and have come a long way in changing the industry to be more inclusive and welcoming to disabled people.

We've been reflecting on some of the achievements of the IFI - Chris Ratcliffe, Director of Development at EFDS had this to say:-

EFDS are proud of the achievements of the Inclusive Fitness Initiative and to now  manage the project in house supporting our strategic aim of ‘Disabled People Active for Life’.  We have witnessed a change within the fitness industry which now reflects more inclusive service provision especially within public sector facilities.  We intend to continue to promote good practice though the industry and encourage more disabled people to take exercise in gyms in the years to come.

This testimonial from one of our pilot facilities states how they have benefited from becoming an IFI Mark facility:-

We have benefited from inclusive fitness because it has helped us to encourage our local community to become more physically active, whilst giving our staff the opportunity to provide excellent customer service to all users.

                                                           Gym & Studio Manager, Carn Brea Leisure Centre

But most importantly are the disabled people’s lives that have been changed through delivering inclusive fitness. This is reflected in this letter sent into us on behalf of a disabled gym user by his wife:

I am writing this for my husband Eric who has progressive muscular atrophy – this is a rare form of motor neurone disease.  This started in January 2005 manifesting itself in my feet and legs, the muscles wasting and becoming weaker.  I joined the gym in September 2006 in order to keep my upper body strong.  In fact it improved my upper body strength considerably and as my leg strength worsened and I became confined to a wheelchair it enabled me to transfer from a wheelchair, to chair, to bed or car.  This was a considerable advantage helping to keep my morale up.

When attending the gym the friendly and helpful staff have always done their best to accommodation my needs in a ‘normal’ manner - without being condescending.  As I am becoming more and more restricted in my ability to use the machines - due to the progression into my hands and arms - the addition of a hand cycle was a great benefit.  Another positive for using the gym is when doing some physical exercise it releases endorphins in the brain – relaxing the mind and lifting the mood.  Contact with other gym member is also a great psychological value.  I personally would always recommend gym membership to everyone.

This letter warmly reflects how inclusive fitness principles can and have had a positive impact on people’s lives which were the original and remain the objectives of the IFI project: to support the industry to be more inclusive and to raise awareness of the benefits of exercise to increase participation amongst disabled people.

We are always looking for good news stories to share with other IFI facilities.  Email us yours.

For more information on IFI visit here