Understanding the Factors That Impact the Participation in Physical Activity and Recreation in Young Adults With Cerebral Palsy (CP)

Disabil Health J. 2019 Jul;12(3):467-472. doi: 10.1016/j.dhjo.2019.02.008. Epub 2019 Apr 3.


Background: Young adults with cerebral palsy (CP) are reported to be less active than their typically developing peers, have higher rates of sedentary behaviors, engage in slower tempo activities, and overall participate in a smaller variety of physical activities (PA). Functional motor level and environmental barriers have been purported to impact the ability of young adult with CP to participate in physical activity and recreational activities.

Objective: To examine the role functional motor level and environmental barriers have on participation in PA and recreation in young adults with CP.

Methods: A survey assessing functional motor level (Gross Motor Function Classification Scale), participation in physical activity (The Physical Activity Scale for Individuals with Physical Disabilities) and recreation (The Assessment of Life Habits), and environmental barriers (The Craig Hospital Inventory of Environmental Factors) was mailed to 442 young adults with CP, between the ages of 18-30 years.

Results: 97 surveys were returned. No differences in PA were found between GMFCS level; however, young adults in GMFCS levels I and II participated more in recreational activities than GMFCS levels III-V. Greater environmental barriers were experienced by young adults in GMFCS II-V.

Conclusions: This study showed that GMFCS level and physical/structural, policy and attitudinal barriers significantly impacted participation in recreational activities for young adults with CP. Strategies for addressing these barriers from both an individualized therapeutic and advocacy perspective are needed in order to facilitate engagement in physical activity and recreation for young adults with CP at all GMFCS levels.

Keywords: Cerebral palsy; Environmental barriers; Participation; Physical activity; Recreation; Young adults.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cerebral Palsy / psychology*
  • Cerebral Palsy / rehabilitation*
  • Disabled Persons / psychology*
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Exercise Therapy / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult