Survey reveals how Covid-19 has affected activity levels of disabled people

A new survey has highlighted the stark reality of how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the activity levels of disabled people.

The findings were revealed today by Activity Alliance, a charity working to make active lives possible for disabled, following their Annual Disability and Activity Survey of nearly 2,000 people.

MDUK agrees that their findings must be addressed by sports and leisure decision makers.

What did the survey ask?

A core part of the survey examined ways the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the activity levels of disabled people. Their responses were compared to answers from non-disabled people.

At the time the survey was conducted, twice as many disabled people felt the Covid-19 pandemic greatly reduced their ability to play sports or physical activities when compared to those without disabilities.

As such, there is now a grave concern that the ongoing pandemic is both widening existing inequalities for those with disabilities, as well as creating new ones.

Key findings from Activity Alliance’s report revealed that:

  • Disabled people with disabilities feel they do not have the opportunity to be as active as they want to, compared to non-disabled people (29% vs 44%).

  • Nearly one in four disabled people stated they had not received enough information about how to be active during the pandemic (23% vs 13%).

  • Respondents said the lack of activity has led to both their physical and mental health being harder to manage. Feelings of loneliness and social isolation were frequently voiced.

  • A fear of contracting the virus, the impact on their health, a lack of space and support to be able to exercise safely at home, have become significant barriers to exercise for disabled people.

How does the survey relate to MDUK?

Many people in the MDUK community are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable and have been advised by the government to shield in their homes. Our helpline has received dozens of calls from people who have been physically affected by both shielding and nationwide lockdowns.

As a result, many have been forced to miss face-to-face appointments with clinicians and their neuromuscular teams, and others have had routine appointments cancelled.

It is crucial that people with muscle-wasting conditions keep active to ensure they maintain as much muscle function as possible. Sadly we have heard from those in our community who have lost core muscle function as a result of their inactivity.

MDUK therefore encourages sports decision makers to implement Activity Alliance’s five recommendations on how they can minimise the impact of Covid-19 on activity levels of those with disabilities.

The recommendations are as follows:

  • Provide clear and consistent information about being active

  • Providers must embed inclusive practice into recovery opportunities

  • Work collaboratively to address new challenges arising from Covid-19

  • Offer a variety of ways to be active

  • Change attitudes towards disabled people in sport and activity


Robert Burley, Director of Campaigns, Care and Support, said:

Activity Alliance’s findings echo with resounding similarity the experiences we have heard about from people with muscle-wasting conditions.

The survey reveals the stark reality for many disabled people, including those in our community, and we urge decision makers in the sport and leisure industry to implement Activity Alliance’s five recommendations as a matter of necessity. 

People with muscle-wasting conditions have told us they feel ‘forgotten about’ in the pandemic.

By enacting these recommendations, decision makers have the power to ensure that disabled people have equality of access to exercise opportunities that are essential now more than ever.



Anyone affected by this article can call the MDUK helpline for free on 0800 652 6352 between 10am to 2pm, Monday to Friday. Alternatively, you can email