Printed Date: 27/04/2018

International Day of People with a Disability - GLL celebrates Disabled Fitness Professionals

GLL - the UK’s leading leisure charitable social enterprise - is celebrating becoming the largest provider of disability fitness trainer placements in the UK.

The news comes as GLL marks the International Day of People with a Disability, Thursday 3 December.

The 11 fitness instructors on the InstructAbility programme are all ‘experts from experience’ in areas such as stroke recovery, mobility and sensory impairment.

The programme is a key part of GLL’s commitment to getting more people active, whatever their previous experience or background.

11 GLL-run centres host the InstructAbility course students, who learn a wide variety of skills including sports science, identifying disability appropriate sports and motivating young disabled clients towards reaching their sport and fitness goals.

Over 50 per cent of graduates have been offered employment following their initial three month voluntary gym placement.

Fitness instructor student Craig Thompson who works at GLL’s The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Centre in Rugby, won the ‘Engagement Award' for bringing 38 new young disabled clients into the Athlefit and chair based exercise sessions.

Craig said:

“The InstructAbility programme is breaking down barriers for people with disabilities and bringing them into our gym – some for the first time.”

“I would like to thank them and all the team at The Queens Diamond Jubilee centre for turning my passion into a job with GLL - and hopefully a career in sports and leisure.”

Engagement with disabled people has reaped rewards - 26 out of the 38 participants are now members of the centre and taking part in regular exercise.

GLL employs a Disability & Inclusion Manager to promote sports access to disabled people – including wheelchair users and young people with learning disabilities - ensuring their trip to the sports centre is a positive and repeated experience.

The organisation provides more accessible venues, with 15 centres accredited to the Inclusive Fitness Initiative (IFI) and supports 191 Para athletes across 34 disciplines with GLL Sport Foundation grants spanning Paralympic, Deaflympic and Special Olympic sports

Peter Bundey, Deputy Manager, GLL said:

“As the UK’s largest leisure charitable social enterprise we are uniquely placed to extend sports participation and opportunity across the community - everything we do is about investing in active lifestyles, health and wellbeing.

“Through supporting a record number of InstructAbility programme placements we are proud to share the success of those disabled people who are using exercise to promote their own recovery, maintain fitness and inspire sporting participation in the wider community.”


2 years ago InstructAbility Disabled Fitness Instructor Karen Willson was working in Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s City Hall and had no particular ambitions for a career in sport fitness:

“I retired so had time on my hands to get more active and was looking for an opportunity to give something back to the community - as GLL does – so working in one of their centres seemed like a good fit.

“Exercise can have huge benefits for disabled people – whether it’s improving strength, stamina, boosting blood circulation or raising mood and confidence.

“I listen to their health restrictions and help them discover what they can do and when’s the best time for them to exercise - and adapt the fitness regime around that. Carers are often surprised at what is possible of their disabled clients saying “I didn’t know he or she could do that!”.”

Karen’s course took place over 12 weeks and included Anatomy and Physiology, Principles of Exercise and a Practical Assessment. She has gone on to complete exercise for older adults training.

Karen works with all ages and her local community has many over 50s - including those who have experienced a stroke - and says she highly recommends the InstructAbility programme for trainers and clients alike.

She leads the 2 hour drop-in, social support and outreach programmes at the Rainbow Leisure Centre in Epsom, Surrey.


GLL centres taking part in InstructAbility are:

Botwell Green Sports & Leisure Centre, Hayes

Bexleyheath Leisure Centre

Highgrove Pool & Fitness Centre, Ruislip

Burnt Oak Leisure Centre, Edgware

Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre

Walthamstow Leisure Centre

Arches Leisure Centre, Greenwich

Rainbow Leisure Centre, Epsom

Donyngs Leisure Centre, Redhill

Barnet Copthall Leisure Centre

The Queen's Diamond Jubilee Centre, Rugby