The learning disability charity, Stay Up Late, has launched a new initiative which pairs up people with and without learning disabilities to do exercise together.

The ‘Sport Buddies’ project is similar to the charity’s ‘Gig Buddies’ programme, which matches volunteers with learning disabled people to attend music events together.

Sports Buddies aims to match up those who like the same exercise or sport. The pair will then be introduced and encouraged to meet regularly to learn new skills and have fun together.

Stay up Late, who are based in Sussex, have a wide range of activities on offer, including: nature walks, park walks or runs, football, table tennis, dancing, yoga and martial arts. However, the charity say they are happy for buddies to try any exercise or sport they both enjoy.

There will also be regular ‘active socials’ such as dance parties in outdoor spaces, table tennis drop-in sessions, kick rounders, walking football games and walking mini-marathons.

The charity hope that the programme will provide an incentive for people to exercise together, encouraging people to get back into playing sport after the pandemic.

Lockdowns have led to many people becoming far less active

It is well known that lockdowns meant that many people were far less active and experienced long periods of isolation which in turn had an impact on both physical and mental health.

In fact, a survey of Gig Buddies members found that 87% of participants felt they’d been less physically active since lockdown and 61% hadn’t done any regular exercise since being at school. The reported reasons were: not knowing where to start, feeling anxious about not being able to do a sport, and being unable to get to the clubs or activities.

Since most people said they were keen to have a Sports Buddy to help them get back into physical activity, Stay Up Late put forward a proposal to Active Sussex who agreed to fund the new project.

They said: “If you have a learning disability or would like to volunteer as a buddy to a person with a learning disability; are based in Sussex and would like to get out and move more, be it sports or exercise, join Sports Buddies!”

To find out more, please visit their website.