Physical activity promotion for people with spinal cord injury: Physiotherapists’ beliefs and actions

Toni L Williams, Brett Smith, Anthony Papathomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)
170 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: It is vital that people with spinal cord injury (SCI) lead a physically active lifestyle to promote long term health and well-being. Yet within rehabilitation and upon discharge into the community, people with SCI are largely inactive. Physiotherapists are well placed to promote a physically active lifestyle and are valued and trusted messengers of physical activity (PA) by people with SCI. Therefore this study aimed to explore the perceptions of physiotherapists in SCI rehabilitation on PA for people with SCI, and what is done to promote PA. Method: Semi-structured interviews were completed with eighteen neurological physiotherapists (2-22 years experience) from SCI centres in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Framed by interpretivism, an inductive thematic analysis was conducted. Results: Three themes were identified: 1) perceived importance of PA; 2) inconsistent PA promotion efforts; and 3) concern regarding community PA. Conclusions: This article makes a significant contribution to the literature by identifying that although physiotherapists value PA, active promotion of PA remains largely absent from their practice. To enable physiotherapists to promote and prescribe PA as a structured and integral component of their practice, effective knowledge strategies need designing and implementing at the macro, meso and micro levels of healthcare.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Early online date5 Dec 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Dec 2016


  • physical therapy
  • healthcare
  • neurological conditions
  • active lifestyle
  • knowledge translation
  • qualitative


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