If we don’t talk about physical activity, we may as well be saying ‘inactivity is ok’, James Brown, Director of Local Support and Partnerships writes.
A disability or long term condition (LTC) makes us twice as likely to be physically inactive. Living with a long term physical health condition also makes us more likely to develop mental health problems, and vice versa
We all know that there are many barriers to being active, both perceived and real. Almost half of disabled people (47%) fear losing their benefits if they seem too active – and these same people rely on their benefits to be active in the first place.
But we also know that 70% of disabled people want to be more active and evidence shows that they would be, if advised by a healthcare professional. So, the question is, how can we work together and create the conditions for change?
We need to make sure we all have the capability, opportunity and motivation to move more. Healthcare professionals play a crucial role in this area. We require reassurance and permission to be active. People need to feel confident, and safe in the knowledge that they are doing the best for themselves and their health.
There can be a huge loss of confidence in our own body when we have a health diagnosis, injury or disability. Mixed messages about what is best for our health can be confusing. This is why the nudge and recommendation to be active from trusted professionals is so important.
It doesn’t need to be much, but we know services are extremely stretched at the moment, so we need to get the systems right so that we can signpost to further support and discussion. If we work together across all sectors, organisations and professions we can get the right messages delivered at the right time.
How can we open these often difficult conversations and then consistently build physical activity into our advice and support? How are professionals then supported to provide a personalised approach to fit the lives and motivations of those they help?
We learned through our Creating Connections programme that the biggest change in activity levels is seen between 3-6 months when there is regular support and motivation. It’s not going to happen with one conversation but that is why we shouldn’t stop.
I have been reflecting on a recent meeting with healthcare leaders and professionals in Calderdale. The message was that if we don’t talk about physical activity, we may as well be saying ‘inactivity is ok’.
We need to ‘redefine the art of the possible’, not only for the individual but also in their support structures, including family, friends and social connections.
We can work together to make the change if we help healthcare professionals feel confident in delivering physical activity messages. We can build systems to support people who want more information, help providers deliver welcoming, inclusive, adapted sessions. But we can’t do this alone, we need the environments to be supportive; facilities need to be accessible; people need to be able to travel freely in their communities; financial systems need to work for us not against us.
We can do it as long as we’re all in this together.