Being active and engaged in a sport or hobby is a big part of life for lots of people, especially when you’re young. Disabled people should have access to all the opportunities to be just as active as non-disabled people, and many sports are easily adapted so people with ataxia can participate fully. Unfortunately, statistics show that people with disabilities are half as likely to participate in sports as those without. Fortunately this doesn’t have to be the case, and the number of people with disabilities taking part in sport is slowly improving, as there are now many more accessible programmes and initiatives for people with disabilities who want to get involved.

When people think about disability and sports these days, people immediately think of the Paralympics, especially following the great success of the London 2012 Paralympic Games which encouraged a huge surge in participation– and although some people with disabilities participate at this elite level - most, especially young people, get involved as a hobby, interest or as part of a social activity – which shows that there’s a sport and a place for everyone to enjoy. Physical activity can make a huge difference to your life as a young person by increasing independence and self-confidence, as well as allowing you to socialise among people with shared interests and concerns, who you might not get to meet otherwise.

There are plenty of online resources to get more information about sport participation in your area or nationally, some of the best websites are included here;

Sport England

http://www.sportengland.org/our-work/disability/

Sport England is dedicated to helping people and communities develop lifelong sporting habits and passions for sport. Their work also seeks to challenge and change the barriers to sport experienced by young people with disabilities, enabling them to view taking part in sport as a viable lifestyle choice. Sport England has also dedicated a substantial amount of money to developing programmes for disabled people, the details of which can be found on their website.

WheelPower

http://www.wheelpower.org.uk/WPower/

WheelPower advocates for wheelchair sport and is an organisation passionate about sport in general, dedicating their resources to providing opportunities for disabled people to live healthy, active lifestyles. They have resources with information on a huge variety of different wheelchair-based sports, for example wheelchair-racing, rugby and basketball - and how to access and participate in them.

IFI Gyms

http://www.efds.co.uk/inclusive_fitness/ifi_gyms

Inclusive Fitness Initiative gyms (IFI Gyms) are an initiative from the English Federation of Disability Sport. They provide accessible physical activity and there are now hundreds dotted all over England, each of which contains specialist equipment accredited by IFI. Here you can also speak to the highly trained members of staff who can help advise you on adapted physical activity. Visit their website to find out if there is an IFI gym close to you.

Aside from the fulfilling social aspects of sport – exercising regularly can help keep your body working to its full potential. It’s therefore important to find an exercise that suits you, your needs and your ability. It might be helpful to consult with your GP or a physiotherapist in order to find exercises that may suit you, or if your planning on a big increase in the amount of exercise you do. The sort of exercises you could do to help keep fit could include:

  • Strengthening exercises
  • Aerobic exercises
  • Stretching
  • Range-of-motion (moving the arms, legs, wrists and ankles in wide reaching circular patterns.)
  • Passive stretching (involves a physiotherapist or carer helping to move your arms or legs to create a stretch and move the joints).