Fitness Transformation: Inclusive Program Empowers Young Adults with Learning Disabilities at Westgate Leisure Centre

The thinkout team outdoors posing for a photo.

At Westgate Leisure Centre, fitness sessions are changing the lives of young individuals with learning disabilities. Partnering with ThinkOut Community (TOC), the centre, managed by Everyone Active in collaboration with Chichester District Council, offers activities aimed at enhancing the physical and mental well-being of young people with various learning disabilities. Ben Polhill leads these sessions, which include weekly circuit training, multisport activities, ‘dryathlons,’ mini half-marathons, and recently launched aqua aerobics on Monday afternoons. The sessions began with seven attendees and have now expanded to support 36 young individuals across three weekly sessions, with plans to accommodate more participants.

Two attendees, Conor and Joe, both in their early 20s, expressed their enjoyment and development through these activities. Conor appreciates the teamwork in the FORTIS challenge, a modified form of HIIT, while Joe enjoys sports sessions, particularly rugby, where he feels more confident and independent. TOC was founded by Hilary Freeborough and Louise Collins to provide opportunities for individuals aged 18-35 with learning disabilities in inclusive and safe environments, acknowledging their need for continued growth and development beyond school or college.

Louise emphasizes the importance of quality activities and opportunities for these young individuals, aiming to support their paths toward greater independence. These fitness sessions not only contribute to improved fitness and health but also offer a safe space for socializing and building relationships. Ben Polhill highlights the overwhelmingly positive feedback received, not only in physical gains but also in life skills and healthy choices made by the participants.

TOC’s success extends beyond these fitness sessions, with their team winning the local Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) competition, It’s a Knockout, encouraging individuals of all abilities and ages to participate in an obstacle course competition against local groups.

Westgate Leisure Centre’s collaborative efforts with TOC provide valuable opportunities for young people with learning disabilities to improve their physical fitness, mental well-being, and social interactions, fostering a more inclusive and supportive community environment.

Source: Sussex World

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