Original Research

Physical activity promotion in persons with spinal cord injuries: Barriers and facilitators in low-resource communities

Candace Vermaak, Suzanne Ferreira, Elmarie Terblanche, Wayne Derman
African Journal of Disability | Vol 11 | a988 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v11i0.988 | © 2022 Candace Vermaak, Suzanne Ferreira, Elmarie Terblanche, Wayne Derman | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 December 2021 | Published: 09 June 2022

About the author(s)

Candace Vermaak, Division of Biokinetics, Department of Sport Science, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
Suzanne Ferreira, Institute of Sport and Exercise Medicine, Department of Sport Science, Faculty of Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
Elmarie Terblanche, Division of Sport Science, Department of Sport Science, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, cape Town, South Africa
Wayne Derman, Institute of Sport and Exercise Medicine, Department of Sport Science, Faculty of Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa; and, International Olympic Committee Research Center, Cape Town, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: A spinal cord injury is a devastating and life-changing event that presents the affected individual with multiple challenges throughout life. Physical activity can help mitigate some of these challenges; however, in low-resource communities where opportunities for physical activity are scarce, these challenges are often exacerbated and multiple.

Objective: This study aimed to identify the barriers and facilitators to physical activity, specifically in individuals with spinal cord injuries, in low-resourced communities.

Methods: A total of 57 adults (> 20 years) with a spinal cord injury living in the Western Cape, South Africa completed the self-developed research questionnaire.

Results: A total of 289 barriers and 290 facilitators were reported. The most frequently reported barriers were lack of transport (n = 35), impairment type (n = 32), lack of trained volunteers and appropriate programmes (n = 19 each) and lack of information received from therapists following discharge (n = 10). The most frequently reported facilitators were support from family (n = 38), the ‘enjoyment’ of physical activity and the fact that ‘it made me feel good’ (n = 37); safe and accessible facilities were reported by 25 participants and 12 participants reported that higher-quality programmes and better-trained staff would help them to be more physically active.

Conclusion: Individuals with a spinal cord injury face many barriers in being physically active. Yet it is evident that people with spinal cord injuries in low-resourced communities are eager to participate and improve their health and physical function. However, this will only realise if practitioners reduce the barriers to access, provide relevant training to staff and volunteers, educate their patients about the importance of physical activity post discharge, and create tailored programmes in safe and accessible community facilities.


Keywords

physical activity; spinal cord injury; barriers; facilitators; low resource communities

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