Skip to main navigation menu Skip to main content Skip to site footer


Vol. 12 No. 1 (2021): Pedagogia Speciale tra Formazione e Ricerca ai tempi della pandemia

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on physical activity practice of people with disabilities

maggio 13, 2021


The global pandemic caused by the COVID-19 has profoundly changed the daily life of most of the world population. People with disabilities have been particularly affected by these changes, which often have accentuated their isolation and marginalization also due to greater difficulties in accessing healthcare services. People with disabilities have also been impacted in relation to their ability to participate in physical activity with even more adverse consequences for their quality of life and health. The aim of this study was to explore the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on physical activity practice of people with disabilities and to understand the changes that caregivers have perceived for the participation in physical activity of this specific population. It emerged that, regardless of the type of disability, people with this condition experienced drastic reductions in their physical activity levels during the pandemic and in most cases did not have access to any type of remote guidance. Furthermore, a higher prevalence of sedentary behavior and negative changes in eating habits have been reported by the caregivers, highlighting the need for specific strategies and initiatives for people with disabilities to maintain healthy habits and a physically active lifestyle.


  1. Ahulló A.M., Montesinos-Magraner L., González L.M., Morales J., Bernabéu-García J.A. and García-Massó X. (2021). Impact of COVID-19 on the self-reported physical activity of people with complete thoracic spinal cord injury full-time manual wheelchair users. The Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine, 1-5. DOI: 10.1080/10790268.2020.1857490.
  2. Bailey T., Hastings R.P. and Totsika V. (2021). COVID‐19 impact on psychological outcomes of parents, siblings and children with intellectual disability: longitudinal before and during lockdown design. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 65(5): 397-404. DOI: 10.1111/jir.12818.
  3. Bossink L.W., van der Putten A.A. and Vlaskamp C. (2017). Understanding low levels of physical activity in people with intellectual disabilities: A systematic review to identify barriers and facilitators. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 68: 95-110. DOI: 10.1016/j.ridd.2017.06.008.
  4. Embregts P.J., van den Bogaard K.J., Frielink N., Voermans M.A., Thalen M. and Jahoda A. (2020). A thematic analysis into the experiences of people with a mild intellectual disability during the COVID-19 lockdown period. International Journal of Developmental Disabilities, 1-5. DOI: 10.1080/20473869.2020.1827214.
  5. Hall G., Laddu D.R., Phillips S.A., Lavie C.J., Arena R. (2020). A tale of two pandemics: How will COVID-19 and global trends in physical inactivity and sedentary behavior affect one another? Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases. DOI: 10.1016/j.pcad.2020.04.005.
  6. Kamyuka D., Carlin L., McPherson G. and Misener L. (2020). Access to Physical Activity and Sport and the Effects of Isolation and Cordon Sanitaire During COVID-19 for People With Disabilities in Scotland and Canada. Frontiers in Sports and Active Living, 2: 183. DOI: 10.3389/fspor.2020.594501.
  7. Kwok N.G. (2020). Adapted physical activity through COVID-19. European Journal of Adapted Physical Activity, 13(1). DOI: 10.5507/euj.2020.003.
  8. Landes S.D., Turk M.A., Formica M.K., McDonald K.E. and Stevens J.D. (2020). COVID-19 outcomes among people with intellectual and developmental disability living in residential group homes in New York State. Disability and Health Journal, 13(4): 100969. DOI: 10.1016/j.dhjo.2020.100969.
  9. Leocani L., Diserens K., Moccia M., Caltagirone C. and Neurorehabilitation Scientific Panel of the European Academy of Neurology-EAN (2020). Disability through COVID‐19 pandemic: neurorehabilitation cannot wait. European journal of neurology, 27(9): e50-e51. DOI: 10.1111/ene.14320.
  10. Marquez D.X, Aguiñaga S., Vásquez, P.M., Conroy, D.E., Erickson K.I., Charles Hillman C., Stillman C.M., Ballard R.M., Sheppard B.B. Petruzzello S.J., King A.C., Powell K.E. (2020). A systematic review of physical activity and quality of life and well-being. Translational Behavioral Medicine, 10(5): 1098-1109. DOI: 10.1093/tbm/ibz198.
  11. Mello A.G.D. and Nuernberg A.H. (2012). Gênero e deficiência: interseções e perspectivas. Revista Estudos Feministas, 20(3): 635-655. DOI: 10.1590/S0104-026X2012000300003.
  12. Pan American Health Organization (2020). Considerations about people with disabilities during the outbreak from COVID-19.
  13. Provenzi L., Grumi S., Gardani A., Aramini V., Dargenio E., Naboni C. and Engaging with Families through On‐line Rehabilitation for Children during the Emergency (EnFORCE) Group. (2021). Italian parents welcomed a telehealth family‐centred rehabilitation programme for children with disability during COVID‐19 lockdown. Acta Paediatrica, 110(1): 194-196. DOI: 10.1111/apa.15636.
  14. Reed N.S., Meeks L.M. and Swenor B.K. (2020). Disability and COVID-19: who counts depends on who is counted. The Lancet Public Health, 5(8): e423. DOI: 10.1016/S2468-2667(20)30161-4.
  15. Reilly C., Muggeridge A. and Cross J.H. (2021). The perceived impact of COVID-19 and associated restrictions on young people with epilepsy in the UK: young people and caregiver survey. Seizure, 85: 111-114. DOI: 10.1016/j.seizure.2020.12.024.
  16. Rimmer J.H., Riley B., Wang E. Rauworth A. and Jurkowski J. (2004). Physical activity participation among persons with disabilities: barriers and facilitators. American journal of preventive medicine, 26(5): 419-425. DOI: 101.106/j.amepre.2004.02.002.
  17. Sallis R., Young D.R., Tartof S.Y., Sallis J.S. Sall J., Li Q., Smith G.N., Cohen D.A. (2021). Physical inactivity is associated with a higher risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes: a study in 48.440 adult patients. British Journal od Sport Medicine. DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2021-104080.
  18. Senjam S.S. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on people living with visual disability. Indian journal of ophthalmology, 68(7): 1367. DOI: 10.4103/ijo.IJO_1513_20.
  19. Smith B. and Bundon A. (2018). Disability models: Explaining and understanding disability sport in different ways. In: The Palgrave handbook of paralympic studies (15-34). London: Palgrave Macmillan.
  20. Tsibidaki A. (2021). Anxiety, meaning in life, self-efficacy and resilience in families with one or more members with special educational needs and disability during COVID-19 pandemic in Greece. Research in developmental disabilities, 109: 103830. DOI: 10.1016/j.ridd.2020.103830.
  21. Turk M.A. and McDermott S. (2020). The COVID-19 pandemic and people with disability. Disability and Health Journal. Editorial. DOI: 10.1016/j.dhjo.2020.100944.
  22. United Nations. (2020). Policy brief: a disability-inclusive response to COVID-19.
  23. Warburton D.E., & Bredin S.S. (2017). Health benefits of physical activity: a systematic review of current systematic reviews. Current Opinion in Cardiology, 32(5): 541-556. DOI: 10.1097/HCO.0000000000000437.
  24. World Health Organization (2010). Global recommendations on physical activity for health. Geneva: World Health Organization.
  25. World Health Organization (2020). WHO guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour. Geneve: World Health Organization.


Metrics Loading ...