DCMS blog

Ability Bow – An exercise lifeline #CommunitiesCan

Victoria Kent


Victoria Kent

Founder and CEO, Ability Bow

Ability Bow provides an exercise lifeline in east London, supporting people who have disabilities and those living with life-changing health conditions such as diabetes, strokes and cancer.

Whilst lockdown restrictions have been eased this is not the case for our community, many of whom are still shielding. The people we normally support in our gym have become more and more inactive because of lockdown.

Gym member John taking part in a pre-Covid class

Many of our community are already chronically inactive and consequently isolated, which has increased during the pandemic. For many people their mental health has declined because of the social isolation, and they have a feeling of hopelessness, and a fear of the virus.

Keeping people moving

Immediately in lockdown we knew that we had to keep people moving and connected. We had to find a way to achieve this, even though with our gym closed we couldn’t support them face-to-face. We knew this was time-critical for our community, and we quickly had to develop something new that would help them to exercise without us being there in person.

Virtual class

A virtual exercise class from Ability Bow

We started by creating a library of online exercises to share freely, for people to exercise safely in the home. Isolation is a serious issue for the community we support which has been amplified by COVID-19. In order to combat this we rang, texted and posted exercise programmes to keep our people as active and connected as possible. Sometimes we were the only person they’d spoken to that day and it was clear that no one was moving around much.

Specialist exercise sessions and more

Thanks to the support of this funding, we have since been able to expand this support to provide specialist exercise one-to-one sessions via livestream. We have also been doing group chat sessions online for our community to join in the live conversation and to reconnect with each other and our staff.

When we started the livestreams, we realised that without exception, every one of our participants presented less mobility and strength than they had before lockdown. The people participating in this so far have described the livestream exercise sessions as “a lifeline” and “much needed”. This highlights the value of the service we are delivering during COVID-19, and strengthening our resolve to continue developing our lockdown services so that we are prepared for the future.

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