Objective: To explore the main barriers to and facilitators of physical activity in young adults with childhood-onset physical disabilities.
Design: Qualitative study using focus groups.
Participants: Sixteen persons (12 men and 4 women) aged 22.4 (standard deviation 3.4) years, of whom 50% were wheelchair-dependent, participated in the study. Eight were diagnosed with myelomeningocele, 4 with cerebral palsy, 2 with acquired brain injury and 2 with rheumatoid arthritis.
Methods: Three focus group sessions of 1.5 h were conducted using a semi-structured question route to assess perceived barriers to and facilitators of physical activity. Tape recordings were transcribed verbatim and content analysed. According to the Physical Activity for People with a Physical Disability model, barriers and facilitators were subdivided into personal factors and environmental factors.
Results: Participants reported several barriers related to attitude and motivation. In addition, lack of energy, existing injury or fear of developing injuries or complications, limited physical activity facilities, and lack of information and knowledge, appeared to be barriers to physical activity. Fun and social contacts were mentioned as facilitators of engaging in physical activity, as well as improved health and fitness.
Conclusion: Young adults with childhood-onset physical disabilities perceived various personal and environmental factors as barriers to or facilitators of physical activity. These should be taken into account when developing interventions to promote physical activity in this population.