Benefits of sport and physical activity for the disabled: implications for the individual and for society

Scand J Rehabil Med. 1991;23(2):51-9.


An increase of physical activity is commonly recommended to those with physical disability, but it is necessary to distinguish competitive sport from fitness programmes, remedial gymnastics and active recreation. Potential benefits of enhanced activity are reviewed. Likely psychological gains include an improvement of mood-state, with a reduction of anxiety and depression, an increase of self-esteem and feelings of greater self-efficacy. Sociological gains include new experiences, new friendships, and a countering of stigmatization. Perceived health is improved, and in a more long-term perspective there is a reduced risk of many chronic diseases. Finally, there is a greater likelihood of employment, with less absenteeism and enhanced productivity. Both the health and the industrial benefits have a potential to yield cost savings that could make an important contribution toward the expense of suitably adapted physical activity programmes. It is concluded that the physically disabled should be encouraged to engage in physical activity, although further large-scale longitudinal studies are needed to determine the optimal type of programme for such individuals.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disabled Persons* / psychology
  • Exercise*
  • Health
  • Humans
  • Sociology
  • Sports* / economics