*NEW* Monthly Health Message

Would your Special Olympics Club like to feature in our next monthly health message? Get in touch today!
Messages can be used as part of a health session in your club.

Get Involved!

If your Special Olympics Club would like to get involved, please contact:

Amy Ball
Regional Health & Education Officer

(+44) 028 9089 2997

Health Promotion Programme

What is the Health Promotion Programme?

The Health Promotion Programme has been developed for Special Olympics athletes. It aims to increase knowledge and encourage healthy dietary and lifestyle changes. Interactive workshops are provided in clubs on a range of different topics such as healthy eating, physical activity, oral health and bone health.


 Each Special Olympics Club that signs up will receive a Health Toolkit to deliver Health Promotion workshops within a club setting. The Health Toolkit is made up of 15 short workshops, covering a variety of health topics. It contains all of the information and resources your club will require, including lots of games, short activities and posters
Athlete Pack Each athlete who is registered to take part in the Health Promotion Programme will receive an Athlete Pack, Food and Water Diary and Special Smile Diary.
Evaluation Report
 The Special Olympics Ireland evaluation report 'The Development and Evaluation of a Health Promotion Programme for People with Intellectual Disabilities,' was launched in October 2012.
To learn more about the background to the Health Promotion Programme and to find out more about its findings, please download a copy here.

Ireland Games 2018 Updates!
*Click here to see our range of healthy athlete screenings and
click here to read 
some athlete stories from the Ireland Games.* 

Read more on our Staff Health Matters Initiative here!

Antrim Borough SOC are Happy & Healthy!

A group of athletes from the Antrim Borough Special Olympics Club have completed two taster sessions in preparation for September 2018 when they will commence the Special Olympics Ireland Health Promotion Programme. As you can see from the picture everyone has enjoyed these taster sessions. Over two evenings, facilitators Peter Griffin and Scott McClay explored ‘What is health? And Healthy Eating’. The overall aim was to do something, make it real and learn through doing. The athletes even completed some homework! The sessions finished with the food pyramid game which everyone enjoyed. Everyone is enthusiastic about the Programme and cannot wait until September to commence it in full.

Shimna Stars are a Shining Example of Health

Thanks to Shimna Stars athlete Glenn McBride's winning rap he was able to secure funding of £375 from his local council's 'In It To Win It' award. The money has been used by the club to promote a healthy lifestyle to all athletes through increased physical activity and good nutrition. Each athlete received a new water bottle and we had a great evening discussing all about healthy eating and enjoying some fruit in the sunshine. Thanks to all who attended and organised the evening. To read the award winning rap click here.

Special Olympics staff know their 'Health Matters'

This week staff enjoyed a healthy lunch while learning more about how to look after their own nutrition and mental health. Special Olympics Ulster have been working with Health Matters to put in place a healthy workplace plan and staff have made lots of changes to benefit their health and well being such as lunchtime exercise classes, increased walking and reducing added sugar which, for many, have resulted in weight loss and improved mental health. A big thank you to Health Matters for all your support over the past six months.

A big congratulations to Armagh SOC Athlete Leader Gemma Gordon who has worked hard to lose 1½ stone over the last year. 

Following a Special Olympics swimming gala, Gemma felt she could better her time if she focused on her health and fitness. The goal of improving her performance gave Gemma the incentive and motivation to make changes.

In February 2017 Gemma started attending a boot camp (along with her coach Nicki!) taking part in a range of exercises 
including boxercise and circuits.

Last weekend Gemma completed the Armagh 10k and now has great fitness and a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI)! 

Causeway Coast Eat the Rainbow!

This post was taken from one of our talented Health Promotion Facilitator's (Kathryn Stewart) blog 'Edible Evidence'. Kathryn has been running the Health Promotion Programme with some of our aquatics athletes from Causeway Coast SOC. 

Last nightat my local Special Olympics Ulster club we learnt all about getting our 5 a day by eating a rainbow of foods 🌈 (probably the only rainbow we’ll see at the rate this weather is going ❄️).

Remember, fruit and veg doesn’t need to be fresh to count, in fact, it can be eaten in 5️⃣ different ways:

1. F R O 
Z E N-  cheap and can be added to yogurt/ smoothies/ cereal
2. F R E S H- grab for a handy snack
3. T I N N E D- cheap & have long use-by dates; just remember to go for fruit in juice not syrup and choose low salt/ sugar versions of soups.
4. J U I C E- 150ml of pure fruit juice counts as 1️⃣ of your 5-a-day.
5. D R I E D- add to porridge/ yogurts or as a handy snack before exercise. Remember a portion of dried fruit=30g/ small handful, which is smaller than fresh because the water has been removed= more concentrated.

Team Ulster Get Ireland Games Ready!

We had a great afternoon at our first health fair aimed at getting our athletes all set for the Ireland Games! At Special Olympics we take the health of our athletes very seriously and want to help make sure all our athletes are as fit and healthy as possible in the lead up to the Ireland Games. There were lots of health professionals giving friendly advice on a range of different subjects. We are looking forward to welcoming the rest of out Team Ulster athletes to our next health fair at the end of April.

Stepping into the New Year

Get in touch if your club are interested in starting a Pedometer Challenge in 2018! “We recently covered physical activity in our health promotion session at Star Breakers. During this session, the athletes were taught how to make sure they were exercising at a moderate intensity (i.e. brisk walking) and we spoke about how activity could be built up in small bouts throughout the day. All athletes were given a pedometer and a diary to record their steps for a month, and set goals to increase their daily steps. The athletes were great at recording their steps, and a few have now joined a local walking club in the community to increase their activity. Some others now go for walks with their family and love being able to see their steps increasing after being active. After Christmas, once the athletes have got used to wearing and using their pedometers, we plan to split the athletes into teams and get a bit of competition going on which team can get the most steps.” 

Pin Pals take up Healthy Snacking

Pin Pals had their last health promotion evening before the summer break and finished this year with a fruit and vegetable tasting session. The athletes have vowed to make training healthier next year and have committed to only drinking water and having healthy snacks while bowling. Great news to hear from the club- keep up the good work!

Angela Promotes Positive Mental Health at Star Breakers

May was Mental Health awareness month and our Health Promotion Facilitators were spreading the message of looking after our mental health at lots of clubs throughout the country. The Star Breakers athletes worked in groups to think of people who they could talk to and things/activities they could do when they feel down or sad. They wrote these people and ideas down to bring home as well as information on how to look after their mental health. The athletes really enjoyed the session and said it was helpful to talk about their feelings.

Naomi Leads Dungannon Swimmers to Better Health

Great to hear how the Health Promotion Programme is going from Fionnuala (a swimming coach with Dungannon SOC): 'We have been up and running our health classes with Naomi leading the charge on Monday nights before our swim sessions. I have enclosed a photo of the group and Francis and Naomi just to let you know what we are up to. It has been a great addition to the club. All members have their folders and this week we even had homework! It is going very well'. Keep up the good work Naomi!

Lee Loses Stones and Feels Fantastic!

We had a great day at the Regional Advancement Equestrian Event in Coleraine RDA. As part of the Healthy Athlete Programme we were focussing on reducing salt intakes and learning about healthy portion sizes. We were measuring blood pressures too as excess salt can increase our blood pressure.

During the day we met Lee Adams (14, pictured centre), an athlete from Omagh Spires Special Olympics Club, and were amazed to hear of his fantastic weight loss. Lee's mum, Siobhan, explained how the whole family had decided to make changes to their diet and lifestyle to help improve their health.
Through adopting some of Slimming World's tips and cooking from fresh the weight started to come off. Now the family has lost a total of 11 stone between them and are feeling great as a result!

Healthy eating combined with regular exercise will really give results- this message is being reinforced by our Health Promotion Facilitators (HPF) in clubs throughout Ulster. Khadija is our HPF in Omagh Spires and has been working through healthy workshops with the athletes in the club encouraging healthy eating along with their training. A big well done to Lee and his family for all their hard work and success!

Monaghan SOC Partner Healthy Eating & Fitness Perfectly

Great to see the health promotion sessions in full swing at Monaghan SOC. On Tuesday 7th February Lisa McGlade ran a healthy eating workshop with half of the athletes in the club while the other half of the athletes worked on their fitness. The groups then swapped over for the second part of the night. James Bellew and five coaches from DBSM Centre of Excellence for High Performance Athletes, Castleshane, visited the club to coach the athletes in fitness. Everybody really enjoyed the evening and a big thanks to all involved.


Lakeland Commit to a Healthy 2017

Emma Phair, one of our Health Promotion Facilitators at Lakeland Special Olympics Club worked with the athletics athletes this month on making 2017 a healthy one! Emma asked if anyone had made any New Year resolutions and then talked about how easy it could be to make one simple change at a time. The athletes then either wrote down or drew one healthy resolution they wanted to make for 2017. Everyone took their new resolutions home but here are a few photos of some examples that they came up with: exercise more/play more football, eat more fruit, and make more fruit smoothies!

Let's Get Cooking!

Take a look at a snapshot of our athlete leadership ‘Cook and Eat to Train’ workshops we ran at the end of last year. These practical, interactive and fun sessions focus on eating better for our sports and teach us how to cook healthy dishes at home. This year we are planning on holding more workshops throughout the Ulster region. If you would like to learn more about staying healthy and taking part as an athlete leader or a mentor, please get in touch with Amy at: amy.mccabe@specialolympics.ie.

A Big Welcome to North West Special Olympics Club

NW SOC are bringing in the Health Promotion Programme with the New Year! Nicky and the team are keen to get 2017 off to a healthy start by focussing on healthy eating, proper hydration and sensible snacking. We had a super first session with the club and are looking forward to hearing lots more from these athletes in 2017.

Athletes get their Health in Check at the Aquatics Event in Bangor  

What a fantastic day we had at the Regional Advancement Aquatics in November. The Healthy Athlete Programme was in full swing all day long with almost 70 athletes attending for screening. On the day we offered Fit Feet checks, Special Smile screenings and Health Promotion services. A big thank you to all our Healthy Athlete volunteers who worked tirelessly throughout the day. If you missed out on this event, our next Healthy Athlete screenings will be on 1st April 2017 at the basketball event in Antrim Forum.

Stephen leads Sean O'Hare Health Drive!

Stephen Kelly is our newest Health Promotion Facilitator spreading the message of good health in the Sean O’Hare Adult Day Centre in Donegal. The Day Centre are doing lots to encourage their athletes to improve their health and wellbeing through having the food pyramid in the dining room, running healthy cooking classes and growing fresh produce through their garden project. They have also reduced the size of their dinner plates and increased vegetable servings at meal times. Some unhealthy snacks have been swapped with healthy alternatives e.g. switching after swimming jambons/crisps to fruit. A big well done to all the athletes and staff at the Day Centre for their hard work and dedication to get healthier!

Strabane Strive for Better Health!

Last week we visited the senior section athletes at Strabane Special Olympics Club. We had a brilliant evening discussing everything from protein to porridge and smoking to stir-frying. Emily is now being trained up to deliver the health workshops on a monthly basis at club training evenings. Great to have Strabane athletes involved in the Programme!

Dungannon SOC kick-start their Health Promotion Programme

Dungannon SOC began their Health Promotion Programme with a healthy smoothie making session following their end of year gala in June. Photographed below are club members Kevin, Francis and Cormac with their healthy athlete packs. Natasha and her volunteer mum are pictured at the smoothie counter (centre). All food for the smoothies and water for athletes was kindly sponsored by Newell stores Dungannon.



What a fantastic summer of sport we had at Special Olympics! Newtownabbey Racers athletes enjoyed learning about how to fuel their training at the athletics event at the Mary Peters Track in Belfast. It was great to see the sun made an appearance too making the fruit kebabs go down well.

Football League Health Education

On Saturday we set up our health promotion stand at the Special Olympics Football League in Omagh. Despite the rain the day was a huge success and our footballers got information on a variety of health topics including alcohol, healthy cooking and smoking. We are looking forward to the next Football League day in a couple of weeks time.

Feeling Stressed? Try some Relaxing Yogalates!

With May being Mental Health Awareness month the various Special Olympics offices have been planning different events to raise awareness among staff.
This week we continued the stress free theme by taking half an hour of our lunch break to relax through a combination of yoga and pilates stretches.
Practitioners report regular pilates can help improve posture, muscle tone, balance and joint mobility, as well as relieve stress, tension and reduce injury risk. We felt great after our first session!


*Volunteer Opportunities* Calling all Dentists and Dental Hygienists

Special Olympics Ulster needs your help. Special Smiles is a free dental screening and prevention service for athletes at Special Olympics events. Could you volunteer on at least one Saturday or Sunday over the course of one year?
Get in touch today to find out more: Amy.mccabe@specialolympics.ie or call 028 9089 2997


Magherafelt Marvels join the Health Promotion Programme!

We had a fantastic first health promotion session with Magherafelt Marvels! Big thank you to Marese for getting the programme off to such a great start!

Newry City Footballers get their Health on Target!

Newry City SOC footballers attended a healthy althete workshop in Newry Conference Centre. The session covered lots of topics including personal hygiene and healthy eating as well as body mass index testing. The workshop finished with recording three healthy changes we hope to continue with over the next few months. We plan to visit Newry again in several months time to see how thinigs are going! A big well done to all who attended!

Castleblaney Bowlers Stock up on Seeds!

We were out again promoting health in Castleblaney last week. In particular, the importance of getting enough fibre into our diets for a healthy gut. Flax seeds are a great way to boost fibre but also provide lots of other important nutrients including protein, magnesium, omega 3 and vitamin E. Although these seeds are tiny they are nutritional powerhouses and research has shown they promote heart health and reduce cancer risk! Flax seeds can be added to almost anything so why not add a spoonful of goodness to your cereal, yogurt or soup?

Make Your 2016 a Healthy One!

We had a great day at the Area East Bowling Event in Lisburn on Friday.
It was fantastic to find out about lots of healthy changes our athletes are making and to hear their success stories.
We’ll be back this week in Castleblaney so call in to find out more on how to keep your health on track!

Cooking Up a Storm!

In January we saw the introduction of an innovative new Athlete Leadership workshop known as ‘Cook and Eat to Train’. The aim of the session was to improve culinary skills and educate on healthy foods that can be enjoyed pre and post exercise. Special Olympics Ulster teamed up with Root Soup to run a practical nutrition workshop coupled with healthy eating advice. The moring was thoroughly enjoyed by all!