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

Talk about it, prescribe it, follow up


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]


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? 


Provide support and keep asking questions on their participation and involvement in follow up appointments. 

Are you doing physical activity flow chart


“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 Bourne, Para Alpine skiing, water skiing, triathlon

Image of Chris in a racing chair with a child in a motorized wheelchair