Perceived barriers and facilitators to increasing physical activity among people with musculoskeletal disorders : a qualitative investigation to inform intervention development

McPhail, Steven, Schippers, Mandy, Marshall, Alison L., Waite, Monique C., & Kuipers, Pim (2014) Perceived barriers and facilitators to increasing physical activity among people with musculoskeletal disorders : a qualitative investigation to inform intervention development. Clinical Interventions in Aging, 2014(9), pp. 2113-2122.

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Musculoskeletal conditions can impair people’s ability to undertake physical activity as they age. The purpose of this qualitative study was to investigate perceived barriers and facilitators to undertaking physical activity reported by patients accessing ambulatory hospital clinics for musculoskeletal disorders.

Patients and methods

A questionnaire with open-ended items was administered to patients (n=217, 73.3% of 296 eligible) from three clinics providing ambulatory services for nonsurgical treatment of musculoskeletal disorders. The survey included questions to capture the clinical and demographic characteristics of the sample. It also comprised two open-ended questions requiring qualitative responses. The first asked the participant to describe factors that made physical activity more difficult, and the second asked which factors made it easier for them to be physically active. Participants’ responses to the two open-ended questions were read, coded, and thematically analyzed independently by two researchers, with a third researcher available to arbitrate any unresolved disagreement.


The mean (standard deviation) age of participants was 53 (15) years; n=113 (52.1%) were male. A total of 112 (51.6%) participants reported having three or more health conditions; n=140 (64.5%) were classified as overweight or obese. Five overarching themes describing perceived barriers for undertaking physical activity were "health conditions", "time restrictions", "poor physical condition", "emotional, social, and psychological barriers", and "access to exercise opportunities". Perceived physical activity facilitators were also aligned under five themes, namely "improved health state", "social, emotional, and behavioral supports", "access to exercise environment", "opportunities for physical activities", and "time availability".


It was clear from the breadth of the data that meaningful supports and interventions must be multidimensional. They should have the capacity to address a variety of physical, functional, social, psychological, motivational, environmental, lifestyle, and other perceived barriers. It would appear that for such interventions to be effective, they should be flexible enough to address a variety of specific concerns.

Impact and interest:

2 citations in Scopus
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4 citations in Web of Science®

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ID Code: 80211
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: exercise, pain, comorbidity, lifestyle, sedentary, behavior
DOI: 10.2147/CIA.S72731
ISSN: 1176-9092
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Public Health & Social Work
Deposited On: 30 Jan 2015 01:00
Last Modified: 01 Feb 2015 21:34

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