Active with a disability

Evidence shows that regular physical activity provides important health benefits for people with disabilities, such as:

  • stroke survivors;
  • people with spinal cord injury;
  • multiple sclerosis;
  • Parkinson's disease;
  • muscular dystrophy;
  • cerebral palsy;
  • traumatic brain injury;
  • limb amputations;
  • mental illness;
  • intellectual disability; and
  • dementia.

The benefits include improved cardiovascular and muscle fitness, improved mental health, and better ability to do tasks of daily life.

Most people with disabilities are capable of doing physical activity on a regular basis with support from their health-care provider, and should aim to achieve the recommended daily activity levels. Studies show that physical activity can generally be done safely when the activities are specifically tailored to an individual's abilities.

Doing Sport Differently is a guide for people with lived experience of disability or health conditions. This useful resource from Disability Rights UK outlines the benefits of being active and provides guidance on how to get started.

Local contacts for support and help to get started

Remember to always seek expert advice before beginning any exercise programme.

Aspire Canterbury provides a friendly ‘one stop’ service for advice and information, linking disabled and older people to providers of leisure and recreational activities and offering a range of support and resources for independent living.

Activelinks provides support to get active through physical activity, sport, recreation and leisure pursuits. The aim of the service is to promote independence and involvement in community life with a focus on health and wellbeing. Support can be individual or through a group.

Exercise as Medicine® NZ is a charitable trust offering specialist group exercise classes for older adults over 65 years with neurodegenerative diseases (such as Parkinson’s, MS and stroke), and long-term conditions (such as cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and arthritis).

Halberg AllSports is a community programme to enhance the lives of physically disabled young people by enabling them to participate in sport and recreation, and is run by the Halberg Disability Sport Foundation.

The Helen Anderson Trust provides day service support to Christchurch adults with intellectual disabilities to foster a sense of independence, personal confidence and equip them with life skills. This includes participating in The Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary/Helen Anderson Trust Challenge Awards and taking part in sport and recreation activities such as the Special Needs Tee Ball Competition in association with Softball Canterbury.

The Multiple Sclerosis & Parkinson’s Society of Canterbury provides support and advice to those with Parkinson’s or MS. They have a specialised gym at their centre in Sir William Pickering Drive and offer a variety of exercises classes and open gym sessions. You can contact their Resource Team on 03 366 2857 extension 4.

Parkinson's New Zealand provides education, information and support for all people with Parkinson's, their caregivers, friends and families. Research indicates that specific types of exercises (including those for strength and flexibility) may slow down the progression of the disease.

The Stroke Foundation NZ provides support and assistance to you and your family after a stroke. They have a range of helpful resources available on their website including a comprehensive guide to exercise after a stroke.

Activity ideas for those with a disability

View the Aspire Canterbury list of leisure and recreation organisations in Christchurch.

Use the Greater Christchurch Sport and Recreation Guide to find a local group or class to help you get started and begin achieving your activity goals.

New Zealand Riding for the Disabled Association (NZRDA) is a charitable organisation providing opportunities for anyone with a disability to enjoy safe, healthy, stimulating, therapeutic horse riding and horse-related activities.

The Southern Centre is a multi-sensory recreational environment for people of all ages and abilities. The Southern Centre Sensory Room is located on the first floor at Pioneer Recreation and Sport Centre, and is a partnership that incorporates the Christchurch City Council and The Southern Centre Charitable Trust.

No Limits Inclusive Netball is a FREE 8-week programme for people with disabilities held at the Christchurch Netball Centre. Learn modified netball skills and have a fun game on Saturday mornings. Groups are run for juniors (up to 16 years) and seniors (17 years +).
No Limits Netball is also available at EA Networks Centre in Ashburton from 10.30am to 11.30am on Tuesdays ($4 per session).

Walking Netball is suitable for all abilities, including those in wheelchairs or with prosthetic limbs, and is available in Christchurch and Ashburton:

Funky MovementsFUNky Movements is a low intensity exercise class combining gentle exercise, circuit and mind/body exercises. This 45-minute class is aimed at people with various abilities and costs $5.50 per person with a free support person. The class runs at:

  • QEII Fitness Taiora (193 Travis Road); and
  • Jellie Park Recreation and Sport Centre (295 Ilam Road).

The Kiwiable Card has now been replaced by the Hāpai Access Card. Existing Kiwiable Cards can still be used up until their expiry date. The Hāpai Access Card provides an easy way for disabled people to show businesses the barriers that they have, and for businesses to respond and show that they care.

Home based activities are a great way to be regularly active without needing lots of equipment.