Disability, the Communication of Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour, and Ableism: A Call for Inclusive Messages

Brett Smith, Kamran Mallick, Charlie E M Foster, Javier Monforte

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This editorial is a call for action to make physical activity and sedentary behaviour messages inclusive. It focuses on disability. Numerous definitions of disability and ways of identifying as disabled exist across the globe. For example, some people, cultures, organisations, and governments prefer for certain reasons to use the term ‘disabled people’, whilst others prefer ‘people with disabilities’ or ‘people with an impairment’ [1]. Respecting difference in terminology used around the world [1], we align with the social model and thus use the term ‘disabled people’ throughout this editorial. Disability refers to people who have long term physical (e.g. spinal cord injury), sensory (e.g. visual impairment), cognitive (e.g. learning difficulties), and/or mental impairments (e.g. depression) which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others [2].
Despite the benefits of physical activity, many disabled people live insufficiently active lifestyles. They are also more likely to be inactive when compared with nondisabled people [2]. Recent UK physical activity guidelines for disabled people recommended doing strength activities on 2 or more days a week and at least 150 min of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity each week for substantial health gains [2-4]. It was also stressed in the UK guidelines that some physical activity is better than nothing as small amounts bring health benefits and the 150 min message alone can be daunting, especially for disabled adults who are mostly inactive [1-4]. The new World Health Organisation global guidelines for physical activity and disability [5] echoed the UK guidelines, providing support for its recommendations.
To maximise the impact of national and global physical activity guidelines, and reduce participation inequalities, inclusive and effective communication is vital [1]. Communicating physical activity recommendations and how to reduce sedentary time often includes simple but compelling messages. When it comes to tackling sedentariness, messages like these have and might be used: “Stand up, sit less”, “Sit less, move more”, “Move more. Sit less. Sleep better.”, “Chairs are killer’s”, “Time to take a stand against inactivity”, “Get Britain standing”, “On your Feet Britain”, “Now is the time to get up and get moving!”, “Breaking up with your Chair”, and “Swap sitting for moving” [6, 7]. However, such messages are ableist.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Sports Medicine
Early online date5 Feb 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Feb 2021

Structured keywords

  • SPS Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences

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