Participant experiences and perceptions of physical activity-enhancing interventions for people with physical impairments and mobility limitations: a meta-synthesis of qualitative research evidence

Health Psychol Rev. 2017 Jun;11(2):179-196. doi: 10.1080/17437199.2017.1299027. Epub 2017 Mar 13.


Disabled people face multiple personal, environmental and social barriers that interfere with leading a physically active lifestyle. Thus, there is an urgent need for behaviour change interventions to increase physical activity (PA) by specifically addressing the situations of disabled people, and barriers to participation. This original meta-synthesis of qualitative research was undertaken to explore participants' experiences and perceptions of PA-enhancing interventions for adults with physical impairments resulting in mobility limitations. Published articles were identified through a rigorous systematic search. Based on the inclusion/exclusion criteria, 10 articles were included for review. Following a critical appraisal of the articles, methods of thematic synthesis were drawn upon to generate overarching concepts through interpretation and conceptual synthesis. Seven interrelated concepts were constructed representing both components and outcomes of the interventions. These were (i) Diversity of interventions; (ii) Importance of communication; (iii) Need for social support; (iv) Behavioural strategies; (v) Gaining knowledge; (vi) Re-framing thoughts about exercise and the self and (vii) Health and well-being. The results revealed that a combination of informational, social and behavioural interventions is perceived as crucial for PA initiation and maintenance. Furthermore, key elements of effective intervention design and implications for policies and practices to increase PA participation are proposed.

Keywords: Disability; behaviour change interventions; meta-synthesis; physical activity; qualitative.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Disabled Persons / psychology*
  • Disabled Persons / rehabilitation
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Mobility Limitation*
  • Perception
  • Qualitative Research