Nonprofits Aim to Boost Inclusive Fitness Opportunities
By Dave Ramont
The International Charter of Physical Education and Sport, established in 1978, states that "Every human being has a fundamental right of access to physical education and sport, which are essential for the full development of his or her personality." But for those with disabilities, sports and exercise can be quite challenging, and too often they're excluded from partaking.
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) points out that obesity—and other chronic diseases related to inactivity—cost the United States hundreds of billions of dollars in healthcare costs and lost productivity every year. And people with disabilities are more likely to be affected by obesity and chronic disease, and have unique challenges to physical activity. So, by building a culture of inclusivity in the fitness realm, more people can get moving and lead healthier lives. ACE CEO Scott Goudeseune said, "If we are truly going to create a healthier, more active world, then we can't afford to exclude a single segment of our population."
To that end, two exciting launches recently took place at the American Heart Association in Washington, D.C.: The UFIT (Universal Fitness Innovation and Transformation) USA launch, and the global launch of the Marseille Declaration. Both initiatives strive for social change and aim to increase fitness opportunities for people with disabilities, ultimately gaining more inclusion in society.
UFIT champions inclusivity by fostering awareness and delivering leading-edge programs to the global fitness industry. The initiative is led by the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) Chair in the Institute of Technology, Tralee, Ireland. UFIT encourages the fitness industry to embrace more inclusive practices by supporting club owners and managers, training organizations, instructors and personal trainers in their work with clients with disabilities. The UFIT program provides a range of resources designed to be used by training providers to guide fitness clubs and instructors through a process that will make them more diverse, including setting up local partnerships with disability service organizations. The program guides staff in developing and implementing practical, workable and realistic service offerings.
UFIT USA was officially launched by the USA Taskforce, which was established to make the fitness sector more inclusive. Members of the taskforce include: the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition; the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability; the International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA); ACE; and the American College of Sports Medicine.
UFIT was originally launched in Marseille, France, in October 2015, in association with IHRSA's 15th Annual European Congress. At the same event the Marseille Declaration was born, which represents a commitment to inclusion by and for the fitness sector and is in full alignment with UNESCO's International Charter of Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sport (2015), and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006). At the USA launch, the declaration was signed multiple times, marking a great commitment and a catalyst for future signings.