Football-loving Gosport dad with arthritis and diabetes joins We Are Undefeatable Sport England campaign to stay active in lockdown

For many people with serious health conditions, Covid-19 has forced them into a complete withdrawal from normal life.And is hasn’t been easy.

Tuesday, 21st July 2020, 10:40 am
Updated Wednesday, 22nd July 2020, 10:02 am

Engineer Darren Armistead loves a pub quiz, playing football with his mates, and also dabbles in a bit of stand-up comedy.

But the father of five from Gosport has Type 2 diabetes and arthritis and the medication he takes suppresses his immune system so he had to pack up work immediately lockdown was called.

He has spent the past four months indoors and in that time he has faced an uncertain financial future and his long-planned wedding to partner Denise Harris was cancelled.

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Darren Armistead in the garden shed where he works out

But is he feeling sorry for himself? Not a bit.

The 53-year-old, from Gosport, says: ‘You always have to look on the bright side of things. We know someone who died from Covid so we don’t feel sorry for ourselves.

‘Once we realised our wedding had to be cancelled, in two weeks we had rearranged the whole thing for next year.

‘On the day we were due to get married we got a bottle of champagne and a takeaway. Our honeymoon was in Tenerife and it was actually warmer here at the time so we were better off at home!’

Darren Armistead with his son Connor playing with the stocks he built during lockdown. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Darren is one of 43 per cent of people in England who live with a health condition. Many of those people admit to feeling anxious about lockdown being lifted and the effect it will have on their health.

That is why Darren has joined a pioneering campaign by Sport England called We are Undefeatable.

The aim is to encourage people with health conditions to become more active, even if they are still in quarantine.

Darren says: ‘Not moving is very bad for people with diabetes and arthritis. So I decorated, I painted every bit of wood in the house because any movement helps.

‘I had some old pallets and built garden furniture. One night I had a dream that I built some stocks, so I got up the next morning and did it.

‘When I exercise I’m not trying to keep up with Steve Redgrave or Bradley Wiggins. I do enough to sweat and make my heart start pumping. I’m not trying to break any records, I just need to keep moving.’

The We Are Undefeatable campaign is about trying to get people active.

It’s not a one-size-fits-all programme, because everyone is different.

It’s about encouraging people to be more active in order to feel better.

Many people with long-term health conditions are finding their mental health is suffering because they have not been able to get out and get active.

Darren has found some surprising ways to overcome that.

‘Gardening has been a great help to me mentally, though I honestly didn’t think I'd be doing anything like that for another 10 years.

‘And I've even discovered the joys of housework. Denise kindly leaves me a long list every day. The important thing is that it keeps me moving.’

This week Darren is beginning a We Are Undefeatable 10-week online walking football course with the Sport England coach, Stuart Langworthy, which takes place at home.

Darren says: ‘They’ve sent me a football and kit. I’m really looking forward to it. Hopefully at the end we’ll have a proper kick-about and a laugh together.’

He says, unlike some sufferers, he was not phased with either the arthritis or diabetes diagnosis.

‘I just said: “Okay, what have I got to do to look after myself?”

‘I have to watch my diet and take some pills. Once a year I have to have an eye test but I’m old so I have to wear glasses anyway.

‘It’s very easy to say “I’ve got diabetes, I’ve had it now, life’s over”.

‘But we’re a very positive family and we don’t think that way.

‘We laugh at each other all the time and take the mickey and don’t take life too seriously. We just get on with things, adjust and carry on.

‘There are a lot of people in a much worse position than us.’

Darren spends his working days on his feet and knew that if that just stopped, he’d be in trouble.

He says: ‘There was a point, right at the beginning, where the lockdown hit me hard so I spent a few days watching Netflix on the sofa.

‘But Denise wouldn’t have it. She said “get up off your bum and move”. And it was brilliant advice.’

A whole raft of activities to keep you healthy

Sport England’s We Are Undefeatable campaign is led by 15 leading health and social care charities, to support the 43 per cent of people in England who live with a health condition to get active in a way that works for them.

This week they announced a range of measures to help people, like Darren who are living with a long term health condition, adjust to life after lockdown both physically and mentally.

This includes the launch of virtual teams, including a walking football team for people living with health conditions.

Other measures include a new library of customisable mini workouts that are perfect for starting a new activity, and a virtual assistant tool on social media to help with activity planning and motivation.

Research shows one in five adults living with a health condition hasn’t left their home since mid-March when lockdown was first introduced – except for emergencies.

A quarter of people living with a health condition say that they will not return to communal sport and leisure centres until there is a vaccine, or Covid-19 is no longer a threat in the UK.

To find out more, go to the website

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