New Direction for Adults with Learning Disabilities to keep active in Rugby

The chair-based exercise class at New Directions Centre in Rugby offers an accessible way for adults with additional needs to stay active.  

New Directions is an inspiring, vibrant, local charity that supports people with learning disabilities and their families and carers to lead a full and valued life. The charity has been going since 1951, set up by local parents of people with learning disabilities, who wanted to see improved services and facilities for their families.  

Their Chair-based exercise group was supported by Think Active, with a grant made to purchase equipment for the weekly exercise sessions. Things like ribbons, small weights, dance hoops and stretchy resistance bands were acquired, to help participants enjoy their classes even more.   

New Directions Rugby, part of Community Choices Network, gives individuals a wide range of opportunities to learn, take up new hobbies and keep active, all in a safe and supportive setting. There is a focus on socialising and making meaningful friendships and connections too. Activities don’t just happen in the town centre premises, but often out and about across the local area too. 

Carol Payne is operations manager for the charity and explains that she can see how the members have benefitted from the chair-based exercise classes:  

“Our clients loved using the new equipment funded by Think Active, and we’ve noticed improved coordination from using all the different bits too. We strive to keep the session fresh and interesting and help participants learn new routines regularly, which aids memory and coordination. The sessions help keep some of our older clients active too as they can easily fall into the trap of leading quite a sedentary lifestyle, due to mobility issues.   

Anna Ashwell is one of the regular participants at the Chair-based exercise sessions. Anna is 52 and lives in Rugby with her sister, she said:  

“I really enjoy taking part in the exercise group, I’ve felt great after the sessions, getting every part of my body moving more and feeling healthy. My favourite part is when we get to pick the song – I always choose ‘Pink Champagne’ by Shaking Stevens, he is my musical hero!” 

Anna takes part in lots of other activities at New Directions Rugby, every week, with lessons in flower arranging and Numeracy, as well as Makaton, sewing and IT. She also loves doing the cooking sessions, where she recently made Chicken Curry, which she thought was delicious.  

James Bray, another Rugby resident and member of the group, said he has made lots of friends while at New Directions and looks forward to taking part in the activities available every week. 

“I’ve been able to do Bingo, Music lessons, Computers and Karaoke – I love singing Queen, Oasis, Pulp or Blur.  

My favourite thing about the chair-based exercise group is doing the ‘run for your life’ exercise, because the leaders look so funny doing the actions!”  

We also spoke to Lucy Homer, who is 23 years old and lives in Rugby. Lucy has Williams Syndrome, which she was diagnosed with at 9 years old.  

“Having Williams Syndrome give me superpowers – like having an amazing memory, so I’m good at learning the exercises and routines for the Chair-based exercise group!” Explains Lucy, who has been a member at the centre for about 2 years.  

“I love the exercise classes, because everyone has so much fun, and it is setup in a way that anyone and everyone can join in.” Lucy said.  

Abi Dixon, from Think Active regional active partnership for Coventry, Warwickshire and Solihull explains why groups like New Direction are so important in fostering a positive attitude to physical activity that is open, accessible and centres on the needs of participants: 

“We were so pleased to be able to fund this chair-based exercise group and support the amazing work they are doing with adults in Rugby who have additional needs. Hearing from Anna, Rob and Lucy about their experiences and enjoyment of the sessions is brilliant; but knowing that there aren’t many other accessible ways for people like them to take part in physical activities in this way is truly eye opening.  

“Everyone deserves the chance to stay physically active and healthy and there needs to be a more diverse range of easy to participate clubs and groups like this!”  

 For more information about New Directions in Rugby visit their website: https://newdirectionsrugby.org.uk/ 

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