For Health Care Providers


32.3% of Canadians with a disability visit a physician at least once a month (if a disability is involved, then over 50% visit a physician at least once a month). In addition, individuals who see their doctor regularly are 54% more likely to be physically active. 

However, only 11% of Canadian physicians refer their patients for physical activity assessments and programs[1].

A key barrier to participation is a perceived lack of information on how to be active with a disability.

People with a disability want to receive information from credible sources. Health care providers are one of the two most valued sources of physical activity information for persons with a disability[2]. Healthcare professionals are encouraged to access published resources for sport-specific and condition-specific guidelines regarding the participation of childr en with a disability in sports and physical activities[3]. There are 3 simple steps you can take towards helping your patient lead a healthy and active lifestyle. 

[1] Federal Disability Report, 2010; Weidinger et al. 2008; Petrella et al. 2007; Faulkner et al. 2010 [2] Faulkner et al., 2010 [3] Minneapolis MN; The McGraw-Hill Companies 2005; Murphy et al. 200

1. TALK ABOUT IT – by talking about physical activity, you have already taken the first step in becoming an advocate for your clients/patients!

To become effective advocates for physical activity and sport, you should have an open and honest discussion with your patients about physical activity:

  • Focus on what your client CAN do! – consider possibilities and share your passion, information and recommendations with patients, colleagues, families etc.
  • Understand the benefits of participation in physical activity and sport for all persons with a disability
  • Advocate that a disability is NOT a barrier to participation – while barriers do exist, you should encourage participation for all individuals[1]
Common Barriers How to Address These Barriers
Worries about negative outcomes Provide realistic information on the risk of pain or injury; remind the patient that there are activities for all abilities. Discuss the benefits of physical activity on physical and psychological health, as well as the risks of inactivity. 
Lack of confidence Reinforce what the patient CAN do; schedule/attend a local "Have a Go" session; help the patient set realistic goals adn remind them that opportunities exist for all levels of ability and involvement. 
Lack of social support Encourage the patient's family members to get involved; reinforce that sport is a great opportunity to make friends. 
Lack of informational resources Direct the patient to local and national resources to help them get involved! 



2. PRESCRIBE IT - PRESCRIBE physical activity based on published guidelines

See the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology for more information 

Ask your patient: Are you doing any physical activity? 

 3. FOLLOW UP - provide support and keep asking questions on their participation and involvement in follow up appointments. 






“I was told by my physio when I was in rehab: ‘If you're not falling out of your chair once a day, you're not trying hard enough’. She let me know that I wasn’t fragile or going to get more broken… I could still get bumped and bruised and take a fall like I used to.”

- Chris, Alpine skiing, water skiing, triathlon