Fitness First has been recognized for its determination to include disabled people with the first of its clubs accredited through the Inclusive Fitness Initiative's (IFI) National Sports Foundation (NSF) Program.
The country's largest gym chain was the first major operator in the commercial sector to commit to the program that works not only to create accessible facilities but also engages disabled people in physical activity.
So far 24 of the health clubs have been accredited and more are being modified to ensure inclusion throughout the country.
John Gamble, Fitness First managing director said: "Fitness First is committed to making the world a fitter place with no exclusions and we are pleased to be making these changes with immediate effect. It is a landmark step forward for the fitness industry and we are proud to be the first major health club group to offer this."
As part of the accreditation process personal trainers have been offered training in Levels Two and Three of the IFI training program to allow them to suitably train disabled members. Fitness First has also worked closely with its equipment suppliers to have a selection of machines which are IFI accredited.
Among the first clubs to be accredited is Poole where the accreditation was marked with a ceremony involving Olympic paralympian skier Russell Docker and Dr Hilary Jones, medical adviser to Fitness First.
Sue Catton, IFI National Director said: "The scale and depth of Fitness First's commitment to the IFI NSF Program illustrates that the inclusion of disabled people is both the right thing and also represents a sensible business decision.
"Fitness First has taken a lead, acknowledged that the commercial sector must seek to proactively include disabled people, both financially and legislatively, and that action is required to ensure that inclusion is adequately addressed. This sends a very powerful message and we hope that all commercial operators will realize that this agenda must be addressed, can be cost effectively met and cannot be ignored."
About Fitness First -Fitness First is the largest privately owned health club group in the world with over 540 Fitness First clubs worldwide reaching over 1.4 million members in 21 countries. In the UK alone there are 160 Fitness First clubs with over 405,000 members.
Fitness First is a member of the Fitness Industry Association (F.I.A), the industry trade body which represents both private and public organizations that are involved in the fitness industry, visit www.fia.org.uk.
Fitness First was awarded Club Operator of the Year in the Fitness Industry Association's 2009 FLAME Awards. Follow us on Twitter: www.twitter.com/FitnessFirstUK
The Inclusive Fitness Initiative is a project of the English Federation of Disability Sport Operating Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of the English Federation of Disability Sport. Since 2001, the Inclusive Fitness Initiative (IFI) has been supporting the leisure and fitness industry to become more inclusive by both promoting and providing better access to fitness facilities for disabled and non-disabled people. The IFI is responsible for the development of the nationally recognized IFI Mark Accreditation.
The IFI Mark is the nationally recognized standard of inclusion within the fitness industry, awarded to fitness facilities that are inclusive of disabled and non-disabled people alike. IFI Mark Accreditation can be awarded at three levels: Provisional, Registered or Excellent.
The National Sports Foundation funded by Sport England, is a Government-led initiative designed to facilitate and encourage partnerships between private investors and community sports projects in England.
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