Initiation of adapted physical activity for military personnel and civilians with acquired disabilities: The role of social support


Limited research has explored the factors that promote initiation into adapted physical activity (PA). This critical knowledge gap results in a lack of understanding of how to optimally promote PA participation for individuals with acquired disabilities. With the aim of filling this gap, we conducted a secondary analysis of qualitative data relating to the PA experiences of individuals with physical disabilities. Specifically, we sought to examine the role of social support in initiating PA for individuals with acquired physical disabilities. Participants consisted of both civilians (n=15; age:19-73 years) and military personnel (n=18; age:30-68 years) with acquired disabilities (e.g., amputations, spinal cord injuries). Participants engaged in two semi-structured interviews, which explored PA engagement over time, as well as perceptions of PA. An inductive thematic narrative analysis was used to identify patterns relating to social support and PA initiation. Creative non-fiction was employed to present the findings in a way that fully detailed the depth and richness of participant experiences. Four distinct short stories were created, based on the identified social support networks (family, peers, coaches, and community outreach). The results illustrate the complexity and critical value of social support in the early stages of adapted PA participation. Findings also highlight the different roles of each social support network, as well as the nuances that arise in the availability and expression of social support based on whether participants were civilians or military personnel. This study provides the foundation for further exploration of the significance of social support in promoting adapted PA.