From guidelines to practice: development and implementation of disability-specific physical activity guidelines

Disabil Rehabil. 2021 Dec;43(24):3432-3439. doi: 10.1080/09638288.2020.1757167. Epub 2020 May 12.


Purpose: Among people with physical disabilities, one of the most frequently-cited barriers to physical activity participation is a lack of basic information on what to do. Likewise, rehabilitation professionals often cite a lack of knowledge about what to recommend or prescribe, as their primary reason for not promoting physical activity to clients with disabilities. The development and implementation of disability-specific physical activity guidelines are important steps toward addressing informational barriers. This paper describes the reasoning behind disability-specific physical activity guidelines, the gold-standard process used to develop disability-specific guidelines for people with spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis, and the "who, what, and how" of behavioural interventions and messaging to support people with disabilities in achieving physical activity guidelines.

Materials and methods: Not Applicable.

Results: Not Applicable.

Conclusions: The needs, values and preferences of people with disabilities must be taken into consideration when undertaking a disability-specific guideline development process. Guidelines can play an important role in physical activity promotion, but behavioural and other interventions are required to address the myriad physical activity barriers faced by people with disabilities.Implications for RehabilitationPeople with and without disabilities can achieve significant fitness and health benefits from activity well below the WHO's 150 minutes/week guideline.Disability-specific physical activity guidelines can alleviate informational barriers for people who want to get active and rehabilitation professionals who want to promote physical activity.Behavioural and other interventions are needed to support people's efforts to achieve physical activity guidelines.A physiotherapist-delivered intervention has shown promise for increasing physical activity in adults with a physical disability.

Keywords: Exercise; disease prevention; health promotion; multiple sclerosis; spinal cord injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior Therapy
  • Disabled Persons*
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Multiple Sclerosis*
  • Physical Therapists*

Grant support