First research endeavour to study physical fitness and quality of life levels of wheelchair users in Hong Kong

Dr Carman Leung Ka-man, Assistant Professor of HPE (third from left); Dr Gary Ng, Chairperson, Hong Kong Federation of Handicapped Youth (third from right); and Ms Lana Wong, Director of Communication and Media Relations of Hong Kong Disneyland Resort (second from right) participate as speakers at the press conference.

A snapshot of collecting research data from a wheelchair user, a member of HKFHY.

Dr Carman Leung Ka-man, Assistant Professor of the Department of Health and Physical Education (HPE), and her team have been commissioned to carry out Hong Kong’s first research project about the physical fitness and physical activity levels of wheelchair users in Hong Kong. Preliminary findings of the research were announced in a press conference held on 14 January 2023.

Commissioned by the Hong Kong Federation of Handicapped Youth (HKFHY) and sponsored by Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, the research project was conducted in response to the lack of data regarding the physical fitness levels of the wheelchair users, and their participation in sports activities in Hong Kong. Besides its collection of relevant data from wheelchair users, the research project aims to provide a base for suggesting appropriate sports activities for the physically challenged and help the government to better understand the needs of wheelchair users when promoting sports activities among them.

The study led by Dr Leung observed 216 wheelchair users between June and December 2022. Among them, 65% are suffering from polio and 12% have spinal cord injuries. research team measured the physical fitness levels of all participants, including their muscle power, muscle flexibility, muscular endurance and cardiorespiratory endurance, as well as their body composition indices like body fat percentage (BFP) and waist circumference (WC).

Participants also needed to complete a survey measuring their ability to perform their daily activities. The amount of their physical activity and their perceived quality of living were assessed by the Physical Activity Scale for Individuals with Physical Disabilities and the WHOQOL-BREF, respectively.

“The research revealed that wheelchair users have poor body flexibility and body composition indices. However, most participants were satisfied with their quality of life and would like to participate in outdoor activities and voluntary works,” Dr Leung said at the press conference.

Based on the study’s results, Dr Leung and her research team suggested that an extensive investigation of physical fitness and physical activity levels among people with all types of physical disabilities in Hong Kong should be conducted, especially for “hidden” wheelchair users. The team believes that more resources should be allocated to promote wheelchair users’ physical and mental health.