The impact of participation in recreational activities on perceptions of the physical and social selves of individuals with physical disabilities was explored. Eleven women (ages 19 to 54) and 12 men (ages 20 to 36) participated in individualized recreational programs including horseback riding, swimming, fitness, weightlifting, racquetball, bowling, tennis, fishing, walking, and tai chi. Tape-recorded interviews were conducted with these individuals following participation. Content analyses of the interview responses indicated that participation impacted four aspects of the physical self: (a) experiencing the body in new ways, (b) enhancing perceptions of physical attributes, (c) redefining physical capabilities, and (d) increasing perceived confidence to pursue new physical activities. Modifications in respondents’ perceptions of the social self were reflected in two themes: (a) expanding social interactions and experiences, and (b) initiating social activities in other contexts. The gains discussed by respondents suggest that individuals developed an enhanced sense of control in both their physical and social lives.
The authors extend a special thank you to all program participants and grant personnel who made this study possible.
Elaine M. Blinde and Lisa R. McClung are both with the Department of Physical Education at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL 62901-4310.