Barriers to sporting activity in the UK

22 February 2016

Gyms, leisure centres and other sports facility providers in the UK are failing to provide activities many disabled people feel they can participate in. These findings come from a new ComRes poll commissioned by Leonard Cheshire Disability.

Infographic: Barriers to sport and exercise. 41% of disabled adults say a lack of suitable activities stops them taking part. Find out more at

‘At the start of this Paralympic year, let’s put this right.

‘Every January millions of us resolve to get fit. And by February, we are flagging.

‘Imagine how much harder it would be to keep your new year’s resolution if, when you arrive at the gym, none of the equipment is suitable for you — because of your disability.

‘Not only will you be less fit, but you will be excluded from a fun activity with your friends.’ — Clare Pelham, chief executive, Leonard Cheshire Disability

A shocking 57% of the disabled people surveyed in our pre-Paralympic Games investigation said they had completed no moderate intensity physical activity at all in the last seven days.

In stark contrast, just 24% of non-disabled adults made the same claim!

Ben Rushgrove‘Sport is a powerful tool and when used properly it can change people's lives, giving them friends, confidence, and empowerment to improve their lives beyond sport.

‘From what I have seen and heard, Leonard Cheshire Disability and charities like them work hard to create sporting opportunities.

‘With another Paralympic games just around the corner comes another opportunity to inspire, motivate and invest in all sport for everyone.’ — Ben Rushgrove, London 2012 Paralympic medallist in the T36 200m sprint

Infographic: Barriers to sport and exercise. 21% of disabled adults say fear of injury stops them taking part. Only 8% of non-disabled adults say the same. Find out more at

‘A lack of exercise provision suitable for disabled people’ was the main barrier for disabled people, with inaccessible facilities and fear of injury also high among the reasons given.

Ann Birtwistle creates sporting opportunities for residents at Greenhill House care home in Somerset.

‘The findings mirror what those we support in our homes have been telling us for years.

‘Without the provision of equipment for inclusive sports such as boccia (a bowls-type game played by people with all physical conditions), or the investment in disability-trained support staff, exercise and sport are often considered "out of reach" by those with severe disabilities.

‘We would like to see more consultation with organisations such as Leonard Cheshire Disability to ensure providers meet the standards necessary for disabled people to have confidence in participation.’ — Ann 

For further details of the poll, see our corresponding press release.

Many of our services provide regular physical activities for disabled people. Search for a service near you.


It would be useful to have a link to this research in the article.

Hi Steve. We've updated the story with a link to the press release (both in the intro and at the end), which has further details about the poll.

Gyms, leisure centres and other sports facility providers in the UK need to provide support for disabled people, so they can participate in sports activities.

"none of the equipment is suitable for you ... because of your disability." It is not MY disability. It is the disability imposed on me by the gym. Should I be shocked that Clare Pelham, CEO of Leonard Cheshire does not know the fundamental difference between disability and impairment?

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