BACKGROUND : People with spinal cord injury (PWSCI) who use wheelchairs for mobility tend
to be physically inactive because of their limited mobility. Poor endurance and exercise
tolerance, associated with poor physical fitness, can make it challenging to meet the physical
demands of activities such as manoeuvring a wheelchair over gravel roads. This may lead to
poor community participation in activities PWSCI were involved in pre-morbidly. To date, no
studies have been conducted in South Africa on what the relationship is between physical
fitness and community participation in PWSCI.
AIM : The purpose of this study was to establish the relationship between physical fitness and
community participation in PWSCI.
METHODOLOGY : An exploratory cross-sectional survey was conducted on PWSCI living in the
Greater Tshwane Metropolitan City. Physical fitness was measured using the 6 minute push
test (6MPT) and the Borg scale. Community participation was measured using the Reintegration
to Normal Living Index (RNLI). The data were analysed using the Spearman’s Rank correlation
at a 5% level of significance.
RESULTS : Moderate to poor associations were found between the 6MPT and the Borg scale with
the RNLI (r = 0.637; p < 0.001 and r = -0.325; p = 0.013, respectively). These results indicate that
the participants who were able to push further in 6 min and had better endurance were more
satisfied with their perceived community participation.
CONCLUSION : This study shows that there is a relationship between physical fitness and
community participation in PWSCI. Information gained from this study lays the foundation
for more studies in this area, and for possible improvement in rehabilitation practice.