Is your mental health content “able-bodied” exclusive?

Published: August 2023

Exercise is great for our mental health and well-being, right? Swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing, have been proven to reduce anxiety and depression. "There’s Science to back up this claim… How could it be wrong?"

Fitness posts, articles focused on working out, getting out in nature for exercise, and so much of the “health-focused” content is anything but healthy for people living with disabilities.

Most fitness content is exclusionary for a fifth of the population in the UK. 


Aside from 8% of disabled people who are wheelchair users, many of us have hidden or invisible disabilities. In fact, you can be both a wheelchair user, and have hidden disabilities!

Sadly, the fitness industry and indeed 'the great outdoors' is mostly closed to many disabled people. You've only got to watch the Peloton ads, to see this. 

A black man with a beard, wearing a black T-shirt with his back to the camera performs a shoulder press with a barbell while sitting in a wheelchair.

Isn't it about time this changed?

Access to fitness and outdoor activities should be disability-inclusive, not “able-body” exclusive.

In a future post, we’ll explain how able-bodied is a problematic term to describe those who aren't disabled, but in the meantime, here’s what you can do to increase access to fitness in your content, company, and community:

  1. Normalise and provide limited mobility-inclusive exercises.

  2. Design accessible studio spaces: with provisions for wheelchairs, ramps and lifts.

  3. Use sports as a form of motivation and physical activity: Table tennis and lawn tennis are great options!

  4. Have accountability buddies in the form of partners, friends, or people living in close proximity.

  5. Weekly or bi-weekly check-ins are excellent for motivation, a friendly face helps buy-in for all activities.

  6. Colour-coded spaces can help neurodivergent people but use a contrast checker to ensure everyone including those with colour blindness can still read the text.

  7. Offer package deals both as an incentive and a form of financial support.

  8. Involve local non-profits with monthly raffles and giveaways to the most consistent or active participants and volunteers.

What can be done to include everyone in fitness?

Here, at Rural Mental Health Matters, we do things differently. Our unique proactive whole-self wellbeing approach applies to buildings, businesses and facilities, including:

  • Gyms
  • Recreational facilities
  • Workplaces
  • Community centres

Lean on us at Rural Mental Health Matters: With one consultancy session, we’ll make sure no one gets left behind.


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