For individuals with any kind of disability or impairment, lack of physical activity increases risk of comorbidities such as obesity, urinary infection, increased pain and fatigue, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and psychosocial problems.

Disabilities and impairment can result due to many factors – traumatic brain injury, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, musculoskeletal conditions, and any number of other accidents, conditions or age-related impairments. Yet regardless of the situation, physical therapy can be a big help.

Benefits of Physical Activity

There are many health benefits gained from engaging in regular physical activity.

These include, but are not limited to:

  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Protection from chronic disease
  • Reduced injuries
  • Improved immune function
  • Improved overall mood
  • Improved blood pressure
  • Improved diabetes or decreased risk of diabetes
  • Improved overall stamina and strength
  • Reduced stress levels
  • Helping to control weight

Even though people generally know that physical activity results in a more healthy self, only an average 34% of people engage in exercise overall. The rest are either sedentary or have very low levels of exercise.

Overcoming-Barriers-that-Influence-Physical-Activity-in-People-with-Disability Overcoming Barriers that Reduce Physical Activity in People with Disabilities

Most Common Barriers To Physical Therapy Engagement

Interestingly, while many would assume that it’s a person’s motivation, or lack thereof, that may be the biggest barrier, this is not the case. Environmental factors are the single biggest barrier for most people.

These environmental barriers are generally four different things:

Costsports and other activities often cost money that people don’t have. Additionally, many people with disabilities have a lower income and require expensive medications in many cases.

Lack of transport – therefore an inability to venture out too far, if at all. And the cost of public transport can also be an obstacle.

Lack of health professional knowledge – according to research, people are concerned about the level of expertise in fitness staff and health professionals in terms of exercise and their physical impairments.

Lack of social support – this can be from health professionals, family, friends, role models, caregivers and so forth. In many cases, people simply aren’t getting the instrumental, informational and emotional support they need.

Making Physical Therapy Recommendations to Overcome Barriers

It is highly recommended that each individual have a physical activity strategy that is individually tailored to them.

Recommend people add discretionary exercise wherever possible.

Examples include:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Park a little further from your destination
  • Walk around the backyard
  • Do regular house chores – sweeping, dusting vacuuming etc.
  • When watching TV, stand up and do something during the breaks

Advise low cost forms of exercise.

Examples include:

  • Gardening
  • Walking
  • Dancing
  • Body weight exercises
  • Stretching or gentle yoga
  • Stationary bike
  • Exercise videos – many of which are free if the person has access to the Internet

Other suggestions

Recommend that patients choose a physical activity that makes them happy, things that fit within their lifestyle and abilities.

Recommend they engage in a short 10 minute session a day if that’s all they can handle.

Recommend they plan ahead and do the activity even if they don’t feel like it.

Recommend they try a physical activity routine on a daily basis for two weeks and see how much better they feel.

Majority of people love the benefits once they get started!