Logan Aldridge, of the Adaptive Training Academy, lifting weights

As an adaptive sports organization, Move United knows all about adapting, so the organization was able to quickly pivot its programs and activities online when the Coronavirus pandemic starting impacting communities across the United States. Since launching with its first virtual program on April 1, 2020, Move United and its member network has collectively offered over 2,200 virtual programs to individuals with physical disabilities to encourage ongoing health and fitness at a time when some programs, gyms, or other facilities have been shut down.

Female fitness instructor holding fitness equipmentMove United, the national leader in community adaptive sports, focuses on providing opportunities for individuals with disabilities to develop independence, confidence, and fitness through participation in community sports, recreation, and educational programs. Through its activities and its network of nearly 200 member organizations across the country, the past year would normally be filled with clinics, practices, competitions, regional games, and other adaptive sports programming. But COVID-19 altered many of those activities.

According the American Psychological Association, emerging research on COVID-19 shows that the coronavirus pandemic has increased psychological distress particularly among people with disabilities. The pandemic not only impacted access to local sports, fitness, and wellness programs in communities across the country, but the physical distancing guidelines also led to higher levels of social isolation. “This isn’t the time for people to be sidelined,” said Move United Executive Director Glenn Merry. “Particularly during trying times like these, we know how important it is to maintain physical and mental health. These reasons immediately drove our attention to host sports, fitness, and wellness activities across digital platforms with our #AdaptAtHome program.”

The 2,200+ live and on-demand sessions hosted by Move United, its member network, and partners had over 270,000 engagements since April 1, 2020. Participants hailed from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. By offering programming virtually, the organization was able to reach beyond its existing network. “We know not everyone has access to an adaptive sports program in their community,” Merry said. “By offering virtual programs, we are changing what people experience as barriers to access.

Adaptive athlete holding a ball, one of the items of the Fitness KitAs another way to support individuals who may not have access to fitness equipment, Move United created an #AdaptAtHome Fitness Kit, which includes a ball, exercise band, cordless jump rope, and other resources so individuals can exercise wherever they are. To date, nearly 1,800 fitness kits have been distributed free of charge. Live programs and recorded fitness sessions also showcase how each item can be utilized.

Participants in the virtual programs included adaptive athletes, disabled veterans, youth and adults with disabilities, adaptive sports coaches, program volunteers and staff, health providers, and others. 90% of participants agreed that the programming helps increase the overall level of physical fitness and 97% agree participating in virtual adaptive sports improves their mood and mental health. “Adapting during Covid has demonstrated the power of sports to bring people with disabilities together, making us stronger mentally, physically and emotionally,” said Merry.

65 different organizations have been part of the #AdaptAtHome initiative, providing online programming in 50 different sports. The member organizations that offered the most virtual programs include GLASA, Adaptive Adventures, Courage Kenny, BORP, Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra, Achieve Tahoe, Dare2Tri, Florida Disabled Outdoor Association, National Sports Center for the Disabled, Angel City Sports, Ability 360 Sports & Fitness Center, and Medstar National Rehab Hospital Adaptive Sports. Top sports offerings included strength and conditioning, yoga, cycling, dance, and fitness. The virtual programs are offered free of charge to all participants. Move United has curated a resource library through the #AdaptAtHome page on its website. To learn more, visit http://www.moveunitedsport.org/adaptathome.