Perceived barriers to exercise in people with spinal cord injury.

OBJECTIVE: To identify barriers to physical fitness faced by individuals with spinal cord injury preventing them from participating in a physical fitness program.

DESIGN: In this cross-sectional study, a survey of barriers to exercise was administered to 72 individuals with spinal cord injury. RESULTS: Although 73.6% of the participants expressed an interest in an exercise program, less than half (45.8%) were currently active in an exercise program. Less than half (47.2%) reported that their physician had recommended an exercise program for them. The most frequently cited concerns about barriers to exercise fell into three areas: (1) intrapersonal or intrinsic (e.g., lack of motivation, lack of energy, lack of interest), (2) resources (e.g., cost of an exercise program, not knowing where to exercise), and (3) structural or architectural (e.g., accessibility of facilities and knowledgeable instructors). More individuals with tetraplegia reported concerns over exercise being too difficult and that health concerns kept them from exercising. Greater number of concerns was significantly related to higher levels of perceived stress.

CONCLUSIONS: People with spinal cord injury face multiple barriers to physical fitness in functional, psychological, and architectural domains. Identification of these barriers can facilitate the participation of individuals with spinal cord injury in an exercise program, improving long-term health and wellness.