Covid no barrier to East End gym helping disabled people stay fit

A community gym in the East End of London is helping people with disabilities keep fit and boost their mental wellbeing at home during the lockdown.

Ability Bow usually caters for people with physical and mental disabilities from Tower Hamlets and beyond at its fully-accessible base at St Paul Old Ford Church, Bow.

As Covid restrictions continue, it is offering online individual and group exercise classes, alongside ‘virtual cuppa’ social sessions to help people keep fit and stay connected.

The scheme is made possible thanks to an £89,200 grant to the gym – a registered charity – from City Bridge Trust, the City of London Corporation’s charity funder.

Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s City Bridge Trust Committee Dhruv Patel said:

“Like many organisations, Ability Bow has shown great resilience and adaptability to ensure it can continue providing a vital service to its members during the lockdown.

“Taking part in online classes and social sessions will mean people can enjoy the extra motivation, enjoyment and feeling of togetherness that comes from exercising with others.”

Ability Bow was set up in 2006 and offers affordable membership to people with disabilities and long-term health conditions, who can use specialist equipment accessible to all. Many of its members have been shielding during the pandemic and some have also had to battle the effects of the virus.

Victoria Kent, Ability Bow founder and CEO, said:

“Covid has meant the isolation and loneliness many of our members suffered with already has been exacerbated, and exercising with others – even virtually – has a really powerful impact on reducing that.

“Alongside a short-term boost in mood and mental wellbeing, in the long term people also feel a sense of control from sticking to a routine and taking positive steps to help themselves physically and mentally.

“Many of our members have had to deal not only with lockdown restrictions but with the impact of the virus itself, so this funding means we’ll be able to help more people build up their fitness again, boost their confidence and lift their mood.”

More information about Ability Bow is available online at www.abilitybow.org

The City of London Corporation’s charity funder, City Bridge Trust, is London’s biggest independent grant giver, making grants of over £25 million a year to tackle disadvantage across the capital – www.citybridgetrust.org.uk

Case study: ‘My moods have swung high and low’

Christine Lilley, 63, from Silvertown, has been coming to the gym for four years and has taken part in supported one-to-one and group gym sessions and during the pandemic online live-streamed one-to-one exercise Zooms. She also attends the ‘Virtual Cuppa’ social session every week.

She said: “The classes are great fun and have helped me to achieve and maintain a level of fitness throughout the pandemic. At times during this period my moods have swung high and low, which I am sure is the case for most of the population in the last ten months, but with Ability Bow’s support, have really helped considerably with both my physical and mental well-being..”

Picture captions

- Instructor Si Mohamed Dahiri with gym member John Barrie pre-lockdown

- Online gym session with instructor Tony Snook (left) and Christine Lilley

- Ability Bow offers accessible gym equipment for all

- Dhruv Patel, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s City Bridge Trust Committee

Notes to editors

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK – www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

The City Corporation’s charity funder, City Bridge Trust, has allocated £15.5 million to the London Community Response, set up to help charities deal with the impact of coronavirus, and has also given over £1.7 million in one-off grants to 202 organisations it already supports to help them offset lost income resulting from the pandemic.

The London Community Response Fund is administered by City Bridge Trust, the funding arm of Bridge House Estates. The City of London Corporation is the sole trustee of Bridge House Estates and Members of its Court of Common Council form the City Bridge Trust Committee, responsible for taking grant and funding decisions for the charity.

Tim Fletcher | Media officer – public services

City of London Corporation

07738 862229 | tim.fletcher@cityoflondon.gov.uk