Introduction of new Municipal Adapted Physical Activity Instructor Development Project

Finnish Society of Sport Sciences has started a three-year new adapted physical activity (APA) development. Project started at July 2020. Main goals of the project are to update municipalities’ local adapted physical activity instructors and to increase public sectors cooperation with other local APA operators and networks.

Background information for project

Out of Finland’s population of 5.5 million people approximately 15 % have some form of limitation in their functional ability due to illness or disability. Some of these individuals need adapting, help or assistance to be able to participate in physical activity. Persons with disabilities engage in physical acitivity less than non-disabled persons. This can be seen in all age groups in Finland (Ala-Vähälä 2018, Pyykkönen & Rikala 2018, Ng, Rintala & Asunta 2019). On the other hand persons with disability benefit from physical activity even more than non-disabled persons because it helps to promote their physical condition and functionality and independency

Municipalities are the most important organizers of adapted physical activity for persons with disabilities. Adapted physical activity has a strong position in the regulation of public sports activities in Finland. The rights of persons with disabilities and chronic illnesses are secured with both Finnish and international laws that regulate Finnish legislation and decision making. The key legislation of adapted physical activity is comprised of Act on the Promotion of Sports and Physical Activity, Equality Act, Non-Discrimination Act, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and Land Use and Building Act.

Adapted Physical Activity Instructors to promote equality

APA instructors in municipalities play and essential part in planning and executing adapted physical activity in the municipal sports administration. There are approximately 100 APA Instructors working in Finnish municipalities. Total number of APA Instructors might be more than 100 due to as APA services can be organized in different ways in smaller municipalities. According to a study about APA Instructors, they play a key role in supporting municipalities’ APA services and facilities.  (Ala-Vähälä 2018.)

In the near future the need for APA will increase due to the population ageing and there will be more groups whose activity need adapting. identifying. Municipalities are struggling with poor economic situation which reduces resources in all sectors. Municipalities require help from third sector to organize, develop and produce APA services. (Ala-Vähälä 2018, Pyykkönen & Rikala 2018.) Finnish Society of Sport Sciences’ new three-year adapted physical activity development project (for municipalities) encourage municipalities to reorganize their APA services in order to serve all inhabitants of municipality better. 

New partners help APA Instructors to develop APA services

Development project aims to help APA Instructors to recognize new ways to arrange APA services. In the future APA Instructors will work as APA coordinators, consults for inclusion and partners for voluntary sector. APA Instructors will support local social-, health-, disability- and pensioners’ associations and sports clubs to arrange physical activity possibilities for people with disabilities and minority groups. The model for the APA instructors work comes from Irelands’ Special Inclusion Disability Officer position.

Goal for the (municipalities APA Instructor) project is to improve network with local operators in voluntary sector and increase awareness of APA within the municipality. In the end of the project persons with disabilities will have more opportunities to participate in physical activity and sports. There are more professionals familiar with APA. Currently the municipalities ways of supporting APA vary a lot between municipalities (Sipilä 2019). There is a need for national guidelines for municipalities on how to arrange APA.

Nine municipalities all around Finland have signed up to participate on New Adapted Physical Activity development project. The municipalities taking part to the project are Helsinki, Jyväskylä, Kouvola, Lappeenranta, Naantali, Oulu, Pirkkala, Rovaniemi and Tampere. Incommon to these municipalities is the need and motivation to develop APA services. The project started in July 2020 and will end in spring 2023. The Finnish Society of Sport Sciences informs about the progress of the project online and in social media.

The project is funded by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. For further information on Ministry of Education and Culture, please visit:  


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Ng, K., Rintala, P. & Asunta, P. 2019. Toimintarajoitteiden yhteydet liikuntakäyttäytymiseen. Teoksessa Lasten ja nuorten liikuntakäyttäytyminen Suomessa. LIITU -tutkimuksen tuloksia 2018. Valtion liikuntaneuvoston julkaisuja 2019:1.
Pyykkönen, T. & Rikala S. 2018. Valtio soveltavan liikunnan ja vammaisurheilun edistäjänä. Valtion liikuntaneuvoston julkaisuja 2018:2.
Sipilä, V. 2019. Kuntien tukimuodot liikunta- ja urheiluseuroille ja liikunta-alan yhdistyksille kaikille avoimen liikunnan toteuttamiseksi. Pro gradu -tutkielma. Jyväskylän yliopisto.