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East London gym for disabled people set to expand after £98k cash boost

A charity helping to get more disabled people in East London exercising to increase fitness, independence and well-being has received a grant of £98,000 for a new project to expand their services within the community.

The City of London Corporation’s charitable funder, City Bridge Trust, has given £98,900 to Ability Bow, based in Tower Hamlets, for its ‘Positive Steps- Getting Fitter and Feeling Better!’ project.

Ability Bow is a charity that helps people with disabilities and long-term illnesses to exercise through their specialist and unique community gym, offering exercise classes and one-to-one sessions.

The new programme will provide weekly exercise classes in different community venues across Tower Hamlets and Hackney as well as health and well-being days and workshops, a new social club and support for volunteering.

The project supports people with disabilities and long-term health conditions, who also have mental health problems, to improve both mental and physical well-being.

The charity believes people with these health conditions can experience many barriers to exercise, from not feeling welcome in a gym, not being able to access one or not appreciating what exactly are the benefits of exercise.

Ability Bow is on a mission to break these barriers down, to overcome the obstacles, and help every individual fulfil their highest potential. Every item of the gym equipment is fully accessible, and easy to use, for any ability.

Alison Gowman, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s City Bridge Trust committee, said:

“This charity is doing vitally important work having already helped so many people with disabilities across East London gain more independence, increase their fitness levels and improve their general well-being through use of the gym.

“When we exercise it releases endorphins which can make a huge difference to personal well-being and mood, while sport also increases confidence and energy levels.

“City Bridge Trust is committed to tackling disadvantage across the capital and making London a fairer and better place to live.”

Victoria Kent, Director of Ability Bow, added:

“The grant enables us to support disabled people with mental health problems, to become fitter, more independent and self-confident.

“We know from the work we have done in East London over the past decade, that if we support people to exercise we can help them build increased strength, both physical and mental, which has a positive impact on their sense of personal resilience and ability to take a full part in everyday life.

“This grant will help us expand our work to reach people who are unable to come to our gym, and we will be able to set up social groups to help develop peer support in our exercising groups. It is a very exciting opportunity to develop our work in a way that we would not be able to do without this grant.”

City Bridge Trust is London’s biggest independent grant giver, making grants of £20 million a year to tackle disadvantage across the capital. The Trust has awarded around 7,500 grants totalling over £360 million since it first began in 1995. It helps achieve the Corporation’s aim of changing the lives of hundreds of thousands of Londoners.

Case study- Steve’s story

Attending the gym as well as my position with the MS society as Branch Chairman gives me a bit of that motivation and purpose back.

I was referred to Ability Bow just over a year ago, feeling depressed and very weak. My GP referred me in order to get out, socialize and to lift my spirits. Although I have Multiple Sclerosis, my depression was my main reason for my referral. Staying indoors and feeling like I didn’t have a reason to get out would make me depressed and became a cycle I couldn’t break.

Coming to Ability Bow gave me the motivation to fight the condition and be better. When I was first diagnosed I missed working; my daily routine of being a HGV driver had changed dramatically, it was easy to feel depressed or de-motivated. Attending the gym gives me a bit of that motivation and purpose back.

Although I’ve had symptoms of MS since my early 20’s I wasn’t diagnosed until my mid to late 30’s. I’m now 45. My MS type is secondary progressive MS. Medication stabilises my condition but of course I go through bad patches where I can become unwell, fatigued or low; there’s good and bad days as you’d expect.

My routine with gym trainer Simohamed is mostly cardio once or twice a week, I really enjoy the boxing we do and the other days I do weight training to keep my strength up. My legs give me the most problems and my left side is weaker than my right but it’s definitely stronger than when I first came here and I feel stronger in myself.

My goal is just to maintain where I am now and not decline, in terms of both fitness and keeping my mind challenged and active.

Something important to me about Ability Bow is that all the staff and gym members are non-judgmental. I never have to answer questions about myself or my condition unless I choose to talk about it, it’s a relaxed and very sociable place.

There are days when I don’t feel like doing anything but by making myself drop in to the gym I always feel better for doing so.



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