Physical Activity Experiences of People with Multiple Sclerosis during the COVID-19 Pandemic Koopmans, Alanna; Pelletier, Chelsea
During the COVID-19 pandemic, government and health officials introduced measures such as social distancing and facility closures that amplified barriers to physical activity. Certain groups, including people with multiple sclerosis (MS), have been underserved during the pandemic. In this qualitative study we aimed to: (1) explore the physical activity experiences of people with MS during the COVID-19 pandemic; (2) identify the facilitators and barriers to physical activity during COVID-19 for people with MS; and (3) make recommendations for inclusive physical activity policy and programming. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 11 adults (9 women) with MS during January and February 2021. Following an inductive thematic analysis, three themes were developed: (1) changing opportunities and adapting to new opportunities; (2) social isolation and physical activity; and (3) adapting physical activity to stay safe from COVID-19. Common facilitators identified included having knowledge and resources to adapt activities, social connections, and access to outdoor recreation opportunities. Identified barriers included fear and anxiety related to the spread of the virus, a loss of in-person activity options, and the closure of physical activity spaces. Online and at-home opportunities for physical activity were a valued and accessible way to address barriers to physical activity for people with MS, and should be maintained post-pandemic while considering flexibility to accommodate variable support needs.
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