A systematic review of quality participation context characteristics in community-based physical activity programs for people with physical disabilities

  • Celina H Shirazipour Queen's University
  • M Blair Evans Pennsylvania State University
  • Jennifer Leo Abilities Centre
  • Alexander Lithopoulos Queen's University
  • Kathleen AMartin Ginis McMaster University
  • Amy E Latimer-Cheung Queen's University


When considering physical activity (PA) participation among individuals with physical disabilities, it is important to explore not just quantity of participation but also the quality of the participation experience. While researchers have identified elements that constitute quality experiences, knowledge is lacking regarding the contextual features that foster these elements and create quality experiences. To explore contextual features that may be associated with a quality participation experience, the current systematic review was conducted to identify studies that evaluated community-based PA programs and assessed or described an outcome or experience related to conceptualizations of quality participation. Five quantitative studies and 33 qualitative studies met inclusion criteria. The quantitative evaluations all assessed constructs related to the quality element of mastery (e.g. self-efficacy). All quantitative studies were group-based and instructor or coach-led. Thus, it was not possible to statistically examine associations between contexts and outcomes because of the low study yield and limited assessments of context features. In contrast, a thematic analysis of qualitative studies identified two contexts as important for fostering quality elements: (1) the group context: participating with peers fosters belongingness and mastery; and (2) the leadership context: knowledgeable instructors promote mastery and autonomy. These findings provide a description of contextual features that may be associated with quality participation experiences. Consideration, description, and evaluation of the context and participation experience is lacking in community-based PA intervention evaluations. To foster quality participation and optimize intervention impact, additional research, especially using quantitative methods, is needed to identify essential context features.

Acknowledgments: Canadian Disability Participation Project (SSHRC Grant # 895-2013-1021)