Up to 100 people with learning disabilities and autism in the St Austell area are attending weekly sessions at St Austell Leisure Centre thanks to a collaboration between GLL, which runs the centre, Cornwall Sports Partnership, which provided the funding, and Cornwall College.

Participants from Blantyre Day Centre, Mid Cornwall Health Hub, Mevagissey Activity Centre and St Austell College join GLL fitness instructor Steve Latham on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. The aim is to encourage them to take part in a range of activities, including multi-sports, circuit training, spinning and walking. For those who may want to compete, there is also a link with Special Olympics Cornwall.

“There is a great deal of laughter, energy and enthusiasm in the sessions, which take place in the sports hall,” says St Austell Leisure Centre Manager Amelia Kitchen. “It’s really lovely to see everyone enjoying themselves and having fun whilst getting fit.”

GLL’s Community Sports Manager, Karen Edmond, devised the project with Steve Hillman, from Cornwall Sports Partnership and Hector Carey, from the Cornwall College Group.

“We have been doing a lot of work with the Cornwall Sports Partnership and are delighted with the success of this latest initiative,” said Karen. “As a social enterprise, inclusivity and community support are at the heart of everything GLL does, so setting up these groups in St Austell has been a real pleasure.”

Steve Hillman is the Inclusion Sport Officer for Cornwall Sports Partnership. He said: “My job is all about creating opportunities for children and adults with a disability and the new sessions at St Austell Leisure Centre are proving very popular. They are user-led, which means that the participants are encouraged to get involved by setting up the equipment, putting it away and coming up with suggestions for what they would like to do. Physical activity doesn’t just improve fitness, it stretches the mind as well.”

The new sessions take place from 1-2pm on Mondays and from 1.30-2.30 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.