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Coaching People with Long-term Health Conditions

A coaching guide to support the #WeAreUndefeatable campaign

About the Campaign

Led by a collaboration of 15 leading health and social care charities, We Are Undefeatable aims to help people with long-term health conditions build physical activity into their lives, in a way that their condition allows, and to celebrate every victory big or small.

The campaign seeks to inspire, reassure and support people to be active by showing people living with a variety of conditions – both visible and invisible – on their own journeys to being active, in a way that suits their needs. 

The campaign is backed with expertise, insight and National Lottery funding from Sport England, the organisation behind the award-winning This Girl Can campaign and is part of the sports council's longer-term drive to change cultural and social norms around long-term health conditions and physical activity; helping more people get active in a way that’s right for them.

Read more about the campaign

About the Guide

We are proud to be supporters of We Are Undefeatable

In this guide, you will find resources to help you or your coaching workforce provide Great Coaching experiences for everyone, including those with long-term health conditions. And understand how coaches connect with people, and create the types of coaching environments that positively develops their relationship with physical activity and sport.

Developed in partnership with:



Get Started

Coaching is a people business. Being able to understand and connect with the people in your sessions on a personal level is the first fundamental step to creating an environment in which they can thrive.

The benefits of coaching go far beyond helping people become better athletes. Coaching can positively and profoundly impact on all aspects of people’s lives; never more so than when people are taking steps to become active for the first time in a long time; perhaps since life has changed for them because of a long-term health condition or disability.

People living with a long-term health condition or disability are twice as likely to be leading an inactive lifestyle, despite evidence that being active can help manage many conditions and help reduce the impact and severity of some symptoms. This makes providing support for those who want to become more active highly valuable.

The UK Chief Medical Officer’s physical activity guidelines: Start Active, Stay Active 2011.

Coaching someone who has a long-term health condition or disability doesn’t have to be a scary prospect; but it can certainly be more challenging. The way a long-term health condition makes people feel is unique to them, for some people, their condition may be unpredictable - one day feeling fine, the next not so well due to things like fatigue and pain. This is in addition to the general challenges we all face when looking to start something new. 

Despite these additional challenges, 45% of people living with a long-term health condition or disability are active, achieve the current physical activity recommendations across a wide range of activities.

Most people living with a long-term health condition or disability can be supported to self-manage their condition. A small percentage of people are considered to have complex needs and require specialist care. For those with additional needs, they will have access to a specialist care pathway to support them. Moving more and getting active improves physical and mental health and happiness, for those with and without long-term health conditions.

Being inactive is harmful to health and can exacerbate health conditions. For almost everybody remaining inactive is significantly more harmful to health than moving more and getting active.

(Public Health England, 2016) Health Matters: Getting Every Adult Active Everyday


Great Coaching can positively impact on a person’s experience of physical activity and sport, helping people to develop positive relationships with moving more. 

Our Spotlight on Mental and Physical Health research showed that these experiences can help to sustain positive behaviour change for longer, and increase people’s satisfaction levels towards being active.

Great Coaching Top Tips

  1. See the person first. You do not need specialised knowledge of a person’s long-term health condition to positively impact upon their experience.
  2. Celebrate every success. No matter how small, recognising and rewarding people’s efforts helps to build confidence - an important element for anyone, particularly when starting something new.
  3. Ask! if you are unsure about any aspect of your session, ask the individual their thoughts and shape their engagement and activities together.
  4. Seek advice. If you are unsure about your coaching practice, speak to a ‘more knowledgeable other’ to help explore solutions and consider ways to adapt activities to suit people's needs.
  5. Consider the experience. Find positive ways to engage people in your sessions outside of physical activity.
  6. You are in control. Don’t do anything you are uncomfortable with. If the person you are coaching feels unsure about their ability to take part, or if they start to feel unwell or dizzy, or if any of the symptoms of their condition change or worsen then ask them to stop. Encourage them to seek further advice from a health professional.
  7. Learn. Find out more about the long-term health conditions of the people that you are supporting. This does not mean that you need to become an expert but it may help you to better meet their needs.

Click on a logo below to find out more about the charities involved in this campaign and the positive work they do.




Providing a warm welcome to the people engaging with your service and workforce is paramount. First impressions can be quickly formed and take a long time to change, particularly when expectations are not met. 

A smooth and predictable experience is key, particularly when engaging with people who are new to you. The coaching workforce forms a critical part of this first impression.

Understanding people's wants and needs is a fundamental part of being able to meet their expectations. 

Around three-quarters of UK adults see the coaching workforce as a support for increasing levels of physical activity, promoting emotional health and well-being; and 61% agreed that they are effective at having a positive influence on their personal and professional lives.

45% of people living with a long-term health condition or disability are active and achieve the current physical activity recommendations across a wide range of activities and settings.

When you are considering the design of a service or programme, it is important to remember that:

  • your existing workforce has the potential to positively impact upon the lives of people living with a long-term health condition by providing a person-centred approach
  • everyone in your workforce can contribute towards creating a positive experience for those engaging in physical activity and sport, not just those with specialist knowledge

Workforce Principles

We developed a set of simple Workforce Principles to guide you when thinking about the needs of the people taking part in your physical activity/sport, helping you to provide great experiences for everyone.

The six principles will encourage you to think about the needs of your customers, and your front line delivery workforce, however you define it. This could be someone helping out; a volunteer, trainer, instructor, facilitator or coach.

How can the Workforce Principles help me?

The Workforce Principles can be used to help you think about your workforce, specifically, where you are now and where you want to be. 

Understanding Customers

Customers are at the centre of everything we do:

  • We are focussed on the needs of all our customers 
  • We understand our current and potential customers 
  • We understand customer experience

Getting the Right People

We attract the workforce we need:

  • We understand what an effective workforce looks like
  • We understand who is part of our workforce
  • We know how to engage the workforce we need

Mobilising People 

We deploy our workforce with care, and for a purpose:

  • We protect our people 
  • Our workforce receives a warm welcome
  • We match our workforce and customers  

Looking after People 

We value and support our workforce: 

  • We know how to support our workforce
  • We provide a range of needs-led support
  • We celebrate the success of our workforce

Developing People 

We foster a learning culture: 

  • We understand learning preferences
  • We provide our workforce with the right opportunities to develop
  • We encourage lifelong learning

Using Your Learning 

We keep improving what we do:

  • We track our progress 
  • We share our learning 
  • We demonstrate impact

Use our template to help you reflect on each of the Workforce Principles, then use our online tool, which will give you a more detailed look at your workforce and the opportunity to reflect, prioritise and act in order to support those living with a long-term health condition or disability. 

For further details on the Workforce Principles, and to access the online tool please contact us at [email protected].

Talk to me: 10 Principles

Activity Alliance champion inclusive practice and aim to make physical activity and sport more accessible for everyone.

As a result of their 'Talk to me report' , the organisation produced a set of 10 simple principles that sports providers can follow to help make their sessions more appealing to disabled people.

Find out more.

Coaching is defined as helping an individual to enhance their experience of physical activity and sport by providing guidance and support aligned to their individual needs and aspirations. Whether you help at a local community running group; coach people more regularly as part of a formal sports club; provide a service for clients as a fitness professional; or support athletes within a talent pathway, it is all coaching.

Learn why coaching makes a difference to people's lives and their communities.

What Next?


Delve into our treasure trove of Great Coaching resources to help coaches grow their confidence when working with people with a long-term health condition or disability.

View All

Coach Learning

Mental Health Awareness in Physical Activity and Sport

Gain the confidence to be able to support people experiencing mental health problems, and help them to thrive inside and outside of your sessions


Develop Your People Skills

Become a truly person-centred coach, understand how to connect with people to help them not only stay active but thrive

Coaching the Person in Front of You 

Supporting Different Needs

Equip yourself with the confidence and skills to engage people with different abilities and health conditions more effectively

Inclusive Activity Programme

Behaviour Change

Learn useful strategies and innovative techniques to help people to get, and stay, active

Behaviour Change Tactics


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