When Movement Moves: How can inclusive running activities create positive body experiences and life-changing fellowships for people with serious movement handicaps?

In Danish

Helle Winther1, Anne-Merete Kissow2 & Carsten Sandahl1
1 Dept. of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen
2 Knowledge Centre on Disability, Høje Tåstrup

Many people with serious movement handicaps must live their lives in institutions. Some of them are not able to take part in movement activities themselves, and thus are also at risk of going into a «negative spiral» with consequences for their health and quality of life, as well as their emotional and social lives (Blömer et al., 2015). This group has so far been given little attention in both Danish and international research.

Contemporary research trends show that there is a need to examine the thus far unused potentials in wholeness-oriented movement activities which allow for physical, psychological, emotional and social processes (Axelsson, Imms & Wilder, 2014; Østern, 2014). This article illustrates a research project which has examined the running fellowship called Team Twin, offering activities in which people with very different predispositions for movement participate in running activities together. The results show that inclusive movement fellowships in which the participants take part on an equal basis may have many possibilities for movement practice in the future for target groups with physical challenges (Winther, Kissow, Theisen Pedersen & Sandahl, 2018).

The running activities are focused on the connection between the joy of movement, physical challenges, and heartfelt, warm fellowship in the group. Thus they may create a «positive spiral» so that the quality of life is improved for both participants. The project’s ambition is also to illustrate to what degree participants with an apparently low degree of intensity can get physiological benefit from the activities. The main theoretical focus of the project is connected to a multi-dimensional understanding of movement in which the interaction between physical, psychological, emotional, social, and cultural dimensions in the movement activities are important (Winther, 2017). The hypothesis is that a «positive spiral» is connected to the intensity of several of these dimensions of movement. The more dimensions that are in play at a time, the more joy, quality of life, health and development will be visible in both the individual with a movement handicap, and the group or fellowship of which the individual is a part.

The project contributes to knowledge about how inclusive running activities may be life-changing for the participants. Results from the project may also create a starting point for further research in a field which is very sparsely investigated to date. Thus this project, combined with other research, may contribute to future suggestions for movement practice for these and other seriously physically challenged target groups.

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HELLE WINTHER, Ph.D.,  is an Associate Professor in dance and movement psychology at the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen. She is also a trained body and dance psychotherapist. Helle is the coordinator for the research strategy “Embodiment, Learning and Social Change”. She is also leader of the studies of dance, movement teaching and movement psychology. She works with the existential and inclusive elements in dance, play, and bodywork for many groups. Her research and teaching is focused on dance and movement pedagogy, dance therapy, movement psychology, and the language of the body in professional practice. Furthermore, she has educated generations of university students in movement and PE for families. Helle has published six books and numerous research articles about her work. Her work has been portrayed in Danish TV (DR1, DR2, TV2) and in radio portraits. She has received three teaching awards at the University of Copenhagen.

ANNE-MERETE KISSOW is consultant and senior researcher Ph.D. at Knowledge Centre on Disability, Høje Taastrup, Denmark. She is Bachelor in Physical Education, Physiotherapist and Master in Educational Studies. As a Physiotherapist Anne-Merete worked in the fields of Rehabilitation and Psychiatry and she was lecturer in Movement, Physiotherapy and Pedagogy / Psychology in University College. As a researcher, she has a certain interest in movement and rehabilitation and the relation between participation in movement activities and everyday life of people with disabilities. Anne-Merete is author, co-author and editor of several textbooks and has published articles in scientific as well as professional journals.

CARSTEN SANDAHL has graduated from the University of Copenhagen where he finished his master’s programme in the field of sport and exercise in 2017. During his studies Carsten taught sports in Vestre Fængsel, a Danish prison. From here he wrote his master’s thesis which investigated how sports can be used in the work with the inmates’ social and personal development. For the last 1,5 years Carsten has been working at “The sports project” which is a Copenhagen bound project that has it as its main goal to help “kids and youth at risk” back into the society through activities – not only physical activities but all activities that motivates the kids. In addition to his full-time work, Carsten also teaches at the University of Copenhagen annually for 10 weeks on the subject “Learning in sports”.

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