Women's Sports: We Are Undefeatable campaign star Rebecca Fowler speaks to GMSW about how wheelchair dancing changed her life

GMSW This Girl Can

After the success of This Girl Can, Sport England has launched a new campaign called We Are Undefeatable to encourage people with long-term health conditions to find ways of being active that work for them.

One in four people in the UK live with long-term health conditions and new research shows that over two thirds would like to be more active. That’s why 15 UK charities have come together to get behind the campaign to inspire people living with health conditions to find ways to build physical activity into their lives. 

For Rebecca Fowler, who stars in the campaign, after having her daughter in 2015 her MS started to deteriorate. As her rehabilitation and physiotherapy started coming to an end in 2017 she was looking for a way to keep active when she found Para Dance UK who are the national governing body for wheelchair dance in the UK.

Through their site she was able to locate a dance group near her – Freewheeling Dance – and Fowler says: “I went along to my first class with them and absolutely fell in love with dancing and have been doing it ever since.”

The group have weekly classes and learn a variety of different routines, from Hip Hop to Ballet to Ballroom and Latin. They do performances and they even compete. Fowler says: “Everybody in my dance group is really competitive and it's really nice to have a platform where we can all be involved in a competitive sport and feel like we're part of something.”

The social side is one key element that keeps them coming back, says Fowler: “We’re all wheelchair users, but we all have different long-term conditions and that shared experience of being wheelchair users unites us. We can support each other through the highs and lows, share what works for us and keep each other's spirits lifted.” Through focusing on their individual abilities Fowler says there is a positive, supportive atmosphere.

For Fowler, joining the group has “had huge benefits all round” and she’s seen her core stability and strength improve and her fatigue transformed: “Previously I found that I would get tired quickly from not having done very much at all. Gradually over the last two years, I've seen that improve significantly and I'm able to do a lot of day-to-day things before I get tired.” Now Fowler says she can dance for longer and do more outside of dancing.

The benefits of wheelchair dancing for Fowler stretch beyond the physical. Fowler says that when she was first diagnosed with MS she became depressed, and after stopping work when she’d had her children she “felt quite isolated and on my own with my problems”. Through meeting other wheelchair users and finding a community, Fowler says it’s improved her mental health: “Having something to get out the house for that's a positive focus and something for myself as well, has been a really important part of my rehab and has lifted me out of that depression completely.”  

Through We Are Undefeatable, Fowler hopes others who are diagnosed with life-changing conditions will benefit from physical activity in the same way she has, because currently, the media isn’t reflective enough: “I think often what we see portrayed in the media is the Paralympics and that feels quite inaccessible to people living with a long term condition that fluctuates so much. I found it hard to relate to the things that I was seeing on the television.”

Instead, the campaign shows that you don’t need to spend hours in the gym or running to be active and that what’s right for you is exactly what you should be doing. Fowler says: “I really wanted to share that message. Hopefully, people will be able to identify with something and it will motivate them to be able to start their journey.”

If you would like to find out more about We Are Undefeatable visit their website.

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