Perspectives on physical activity among people with multiple sclerosis who are wheelchair users: Informing the design of future interventions

Yvonne C. Learmonth, Ian M. Rice, Teresa Ostler, Laura A. Rice, Robert W. Motl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: People with advanced multiple sclerosis (MS) are less physically active than those with milder forms of the disease, and wheelchair use has a negative association with physical activity participation. Thus, wheelchair users with MS are doubly disadvantaged for accruing the benefits of physical activity and exercise. Appropriate physical activity and exercise interventions are needed for this population. Methods: We undertook a qualitative study to explore the meanings, motivations, and outcomes of physical activity in wheelchair users with MS. We sought to understand daily opportunities to accumulate physical activity and exercise, and to identify perceived barriers, facilitators, and benefits that might inform the design of future interventions. Results: We interviewed 15 wheelchair users (mean age, 52 ± 8.8 years; n = 12 women). Data were transcribed and analyzed to identify and explore common themes. Our first theme was the reduced opportunity to participate in physical activity due to participants' dependence on mobility devices, environmental adaptations, and tangible support. Our second theme was the importance of incorporating physical activity and exercise into the everyday environment, highlighting the need for adaptive exercise and accessible environments. This indicated the need to incorporate behavior change modulators into physical activity and exercise interventions for those with advanced MS. Health-care professionals played an important role in promoting increased physical activity and exercise participation in those with advanced MS. Conclusions: Our findings may inform future interventions to increase initiation and maintenance of physical activity and exercise among people with advanced MS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-119
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of MS Care
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


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