Disability and the gym: experiences, barriers and facilitators of gym use for individuals with physical disabilities
journal contributionposted on 22.09.2016, 09:20 by Emma V. Richardson, Brett M. Smith, Anthony Papathomas
Purpose: Individuals with physical disabilities are among the most inactive population in society, arguably due to the lack of suitable environments to exercise. The gym is a space dedicated to improving physical fitness in a controlled environment with specialized equipment and qualified instructors. The feasibility of using this space to promote health to this population, however, is yet to be established. Method: Over an 18-month period, 21 people with physical disabilities were interviewed regarding their experiences in the gym. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews, transcribed verbatim, and subject to thematic analysis. Results: Four broad themes were identified: (1) experiencing enhanced well-ness, (2) perceived conflict between gym values and disability, (3) influence of a previous gym identity, and (4) experiences of psycho-emotional disablism. Conclusions: Participants were perceived to experience a variety of health benefits; however, they also experienced many barriers such as not aligning to the cultural norms of the gym, limited interpretations of health, oppressive messages from the built environment, and negative relational interactions. While there is potential for the gym to be used as a place to promote health, more must be done to foster an inclusive atmosphere in this space.
- Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences