More than 4,000 people with learning disabilities are being invited to take on a new Round the World Challenge as we invest £1 million over three years with Mencap.
A total of 27 participation hubs will be set up across England with the aim of inspiring and assisting people with learning disabilities to get active in a fun, flexible and empowering way.
People taking on a variety of activities, including Zumba, boccia and walking rugby – as well as more traditional sports – will register their time spent exercising each week, with that figure being converted into miles.
Anyone completing 100 hours of exercise will have completed their round-the-world trip, with landmarks along the way including 20 hours for crossing the UK and 40 for Europe – with participants receiving ‘postcards’ to recognise their achievement in reaching significant landmarks along their journey.
Pilots schemes have already shown the programme to be a success with Vijay Patel turning a 30-minute lunchtime run into the confidence he needed to get a job.
Those with learning disabilities are twice as likely to be obese and have, on average, a 17-year reduced life expectancy
“Taking part in Round The World Challenge has made me so confident and helped me get a paid job,” he said.
“I feel so much fitter and I’ve made loads of friends. I now play in a five-a-side football team where I am the top goal-scoring striker.
“Thank you to players from the National Lottery for giving us the money to help more people like me get involved.”
The £1.7 million project will be majority funded by our £1 million investment of National Lottery money, with the sessions at each hub being run by specially trained staff and volunteers to ensure participants feel welcome and encouraged.
As well as the health benefits of increasing physical activity levels, research has shown that getting those with a learning disability involved in sport can have a positive impact on the rest of their life.
By week 20 of a pilot scheme none of the participants said they felt worried, sad or unhappy.
“This unique partnership between Mencap and Sport England offers the chance for people with learning disabilities to become more engaged with other people and social activity, something Mencap strongly believes in,” said Mencap chief executive Jan Tregelles.
“Exercise is for everyone and can have positive benefits including extended social interaction.”
Our Active Lives Adult surveys have shown that 43.1% of adults with learning disabilities are classed as inactive, compared to the national average of 25.2%.
We must make sport and physical activity an attractive and accessible lifestyle choice
Tim Hollingsworth, our chief executive
Those with a learning disability are also twice as likely to become obese, five times more likely to be morbidly obese and on average will die 17 years before those without a learning disability.
And our chief executive, Tim Hollingsworth, is determined to help address these issues.
“Sport has such a powerful role to play in building confidence, overall health, employability and strengthening communities,” he said.
“So, it is unacceptable that people with learning disabilities are more than twice as likely to be inactive.
“Sport England is determined to play its part in reducing this gap and we believe our unique partnership with Mencap, supported by National Lottery funding, will go a long way in doing just that.
“We must make sport and physical activity an attractive and accessible lifestyle choice – through traveling Round the World for example – so many more people with learning disabilities can lead active lives.”