‘Finding what works for me’ – a qualitative study of factors influencing community gym participation for young adults with cerebral palsy

Georga McKenzie, Claire Willis, Nora Shields

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Web of Science)

Abstract

Purpose
To understand the factors influencing participation in community-based gym exercise for young adults with cerebral palsy (CP).

Methods
A qualitative study using semi-structured interviews was conducted. Interviews were completed with 39 young adults with CP (15–30 years, GMFCS I–IV) following a peer-supported, gym-based exercise program called FitSkills.

Results
“Finding what works for me” was the overarching theme. Through their gym experiences, young adults with CP identified four interrelated main themes that influenced whether gym participation “worked” for them, or not: (i) psychological factors, (ii) a “social” participation context, (iii) organisational and logistical support, and (iv) cost. The social context of FitSkills was perceived to positively influence psychological health outcomes and attenuate perceived barriers to participation. Organisational support facilitated their initial attendance, while logistical effort and cost affected ongoing or future gym participation.

Conclusions
Social involvement plays a critical role in positive participation experiences in community exercise settings for young adults with CP. Clinicians supporting exercise participation for this group should prioritise intervention strategies that promote social engagement and mental wellbeing. Collaboration between clinicians, community leisure organisations, and funding bodies may be essential to overcome logistical and financial barriers during the transition to adulthood.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1984-1991
Number of pages8
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Volume45
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes

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