APA Definition & Philosophy

There are many APA definitions in the literature of APA that can be retrieved from APA Textbooks and journal articles in APAQ and other sources. Most of these definitions are very general in order to include as many cases, and situations as possible, thus reducing tangibility of the term. The purpose of the following temporary draft definition is to simplify the view of APA and provide clear perspectives to both practitioners and potential service recipients

Simplified APA Definition

Jeux Paralympiques PŽkin 2008 : Michael JeremiaszAdapted physical activity (APA) is a professional branch of kinesiology / physical education / sport & human movement sciences, which is directed toward persons who require adaptation for participation in the context of physical activity.

From a sport science perspective, “Adapted physical activity science is research, theory and practice directed toward persons of all ages underserved by the general sport sciences, disadvantaged in resources, or lacking power to access equal physical activity opportunities and rights. APA services and supports are provided in all kinds of settings. Thus, research, theory and practice relate to the needs and rights in inclusive as well as separate APA programs” (Sherrill & Hutzler, 2008).

Adaptation to physical activity opportunities is most often provided in form of appropriately designed and modified equipment (prosthesis, wheelchairs, mono-ski, ball size etc.), task criteria (e.g., modifying skill quality criteria or using a different skill), instructions (e.g., using personal supports, peer tutors, non-verbal instructions, motivational strategies), physical and social environments (e.g., increasing or decreasing court dimensions; segregated vs. inclusive; type of training climate: mastery oriented, collaborative or competitive social environment; degree of peer and parental support), & rules (e.g., double bounce rule in wheelchair tennis).

Participation in physical activity contexts means being included in both personalysed and general physical activity programs in different application areas including, but not limited to:

  •     inclusive and special physical education,
  •     recreation and leisure time,
  •     competitive and elite sports, and
  •     rehabilitation and health exercise


An extended description of APA

In many cases APA involves individuals with disabilities, but its principles may also apply to including obese, aged, young individuals and any other individual difference that may restrict participation in regular (non-adapted) physical activity.

Thus, adapted physical activity is about individualizing instruction, matching personal strengths and interests with appropriate activities and adapting environments to promote full participation in physical activity, regardless of the population being engaged.

Examples for professional carriers related to APA are:

  •     certified adapted physical education teachers (US)
  •     coaches for athletes with disability;
  •     recreation program developers;
  •     therapeutic recreation specialists;
  •     certified inclusive fitness trainers;
  •     psychomotor therapists,
  •     inclusive community program administrators,
  •     disability sport administrators.

It should be acknowledged that these career opportunities are possible using various academic and non-academic degrees, some of which may be undergraduage, but most likely post graduate degrees are encouraged. The academic affiliation of such degrees could be within the education as well as health sciences / biomedical faculties. While direct legislation only moderately acknowledge APA (e.g., IDEA and ADA in the USA), international conventions strongly support it (specifically, Article 30 of the UN Convention on human rights for persons with disabilites).

In contrast to physical therapies, APA is dedicated to the concepts of empowerment and ecological validity.
This means that physical activity of participants is self-driven and targeted towards mastery and excellence.
A good example for the philosophy of self-determination and Participation is provided in the outstanding video below, demonstrating a street context of two breakdancers with disabilities: “Hout VS Lazy Legs”.

Sherrill, C., & Hutzler, Y. (2008). Adapted physical activity science. In Borms, J. (Ed.) Directory of sport science (5th ed.). (pp. 90-103).