Exploring the Perspectives of Adults Aging With Long-Term Physical Disabilities on Physical Activity: A Qualitative Study

Rachel Heeb Desai, Rachel Kiserow, Alicia Mullings, Megan Smith, Susan Tucker, Amy Eyler, Susan Stark, Kerri Morgan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Adults aging with long-term physical disabilities (AAwPD) face personal and environmental barriers to living independently, but little is known about their perspectives on and experiences with physical activity (PA). Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore the perspectives of AAwPD on PA. Research Design: Qualitative semi-structured interviews with AAwPD were conducted virtually via phone or videoconference. Study Sample: A convenience sample of AAwPD aged 45-65 and living with a physical disability for at least 5 years was recruited through aging organizations, disability organizations, and social media in St. Louis, Missouri until thematic saturation was reached (n = 20). Data Collection and Analysis: Participants were asked semi-structured interview questions about their perspectives and experiences with PA following an interview guide developed by disability, aging, and qualitative research experts. Data were analyzed using text analysis in NVivo 12. Codes were developed into themes by the research team and validated using member checking methods. Results: Four themes emerged from the data: barriers and facilitators to engaging in PA, motivations and beliefs regarding PA, benefits of PA, and PA routines and habits. Participants reported a desire to engage in more PA but described barriers such as pain and fatigue symptoms, secondary health conditions, lack of social support, and fear of falling. Accessibility of facilities and equipment (eg, lack of ramps or equipment not at wheelchair height) and transportation barriers (eg, inconvenient schedules or excessive wait times) were specifically described as major environmental barriers. Conclusion: Most participants’ reported PA routines did not meet the quantity or intensity levels recommended by current guidelines. These results may help inform healthcare providers, community programs, and future interventions to improve PA levels for AAwPD, an underserved but growing demographic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)654-663
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Health Promotion
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • aging
  • physical activity
  • physical disability
  • qualitative research


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