People with learning disabilities and autism encouraged to take small steps to feeling good

A music project created by people with learning disabilities and autism aims to encourage people to move more and feel fitter and healthier.

Developed as part of the HowFit programme, the NHS fitness programme developed by north east consultant Dr Steve Parry and his team, the project was created to support people with learning disabilities and autism to move more, as its widely recognised increased activity helps boost both fitness and wellbeing.

Funded by the NHS North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the project is led by The Twisting Ducks Theatre Company, a North East charity working across the region to support adults with learning disabilities and autism. Based in Newcastle they tackle inequalities and improve wellbeing by increasing opportunities for people with learning disabilities and autism to have their voices heard and to contribute to their community.

During lock down, their artists with learning disabilities and autism were supported to learn new ways to keep fit by using the HowFit programme of exercises. HowFit encourages users of any ability, from chair based to fairly fit, to undertake a plan of simple exercises that can be carried out at home without the need for any special equipment.

As part of the activity the artists were also taught how to deliver the HowFit exercises themselves to encourage others to take part. They also created a song and video which was written by four members of the group, Dan, Fiona, Kieran and Lisa and sung by Catherine.

Twisting Ducks Theatre Company group member Lisa said: “I have mobility problems. I used to be scared and worried about doing exercise. Since I started working on our HowFit project I’ve learned it only takes a small amount of exercise to feel good and be more active.

“I can’t believe it, now I’m teaching others how to exercise. I feel more stronger and fitter. I used to have to get a taxi everywhere because of my mobility but now I’m walking to get the bus to get to my group. 

They also learnt how to deliver the HowFit exercises themselves to help encourage others to take part and used weekly zoom sessions to get together and take part. Next steps for the project include a weekly live exercise class which will be led by artists from the group.

Dr Clare Scarlett, clinical lead for Learning Disabilities and Autism, NHS North Tyneside CCG said: “People with learning disabilities and autism face significant inequalities in their physical and psychological health. They can lead healthy lives but overall experience poorer health with more serious health conditions and have a lower life expectancy than their developing peers.

“This inspirational project will help people to engage in physical activity which is known to help improve health and wellbeing. The music video is so catchy we’re sure everyone will be singing along and doing their HowFit exercises – it really lifts your mood.”

For further information on HowFit exercise programme visit


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