Stay fit and active this festive season

Posted: Thursday 24 December 2020 at 11:00

Sticking to a regular exercise routine has been tricky this year and as we head into festive season it is inevitable we will become less active.

We have spoken to pilates instructor, Sally Mantle, who has talked about her accessible pilates classes and discussed how exercise can boost your confidence - especially if you are visually impaired.

When lockdown began earlier this year Sally, who has Sorsby fundus dystrophy, adapted her pilates classes to work online and off.

She says her classes provide more than just exercise, and the type of instruction that she and her colleagues offer is especially valuable to people with sight loss.

“It’s not just a fitness class,” she explains. “It’s movement therapy. When you’ve lost one sense, you need to augment others, so we work a lot on spatial awareness, balance and posture.”

As a result of the first lockdown, Sally adapted her studio in Glastonbury to make it ‘COVID-proof’ and has also run online classes, which have proved very popular with her students. Sally says: “For the first six weeks of the first lockdown, especially, I think it was the real highlight of their week. It’s easy to lose your progress if you stop training, and having a regular class was a welcome slice of normality.”

It does take a few weeks for people to (re)gain their confidence if they’ve not exercised for a while or indeed if they’re first-timers, she says: “Everyone feels a bit more fragile, a bit less agile to start with. We work gradually to build them back up.”

It’s a process Sally’s seen from both sides. “When I started losing my sight due to Sorsby fundus dystrophy, my teachers said: ‘You know you’re leaning to one side?’” she remembers. “I had no idea. I’d lost some of my proprioception – the sense that tells you where your body is in space. And as a result, my nervous system was seeing threats where there were none.”

Thankfully her teachers didn’t give up, and she was able to retrain. “Exercise is a great morale booster, and there’s nothing like feeling strong and confident in daily life.”

Some other accessible workouts you could try, include:

* Audio-only workouts, from chair yoga to interval training. Download from blindalive.com, or search youtube.com for “eyes free fitness”.

* Four sets of accessible workouts from British Blind Sport, which includes: stretches and Pilates/yoga, gentle workouts, routines especially for children and young people and, for the most energetic, a high-impact and cardio selection. Find them all at britishblindsport.org.uk/active-at-home

* The Pilates Foundation’s online classes for members. Its website lists classes and teachers near you: pilatesfoundation.com

* Move it or Lose it classes, which are designed especially for older people, focusing on simple ways to maintain your strength, flexibility and balance. Although classes aren’t running at the moment, you can order a CD or series of DVDs from moveitorloseit.co.ukor by calling 0800 612 0450.

* 10 Today - a series of 10-minute audio-only workouts. Find the full back catalogue at 10today.co.uk– or, if you’re in Bradford or Cornwall, listen live on local community radio each weekday (Bradford 106.6FM, 2pm; Cornwall 100.8FM, 10.10am).