Children and adolescents with heterogeneous psychiatric disorders, of whom over 50% have a second psychiatric comorbidity, have low rates of physical activity and experience unique challenges to engaging in community-based exercise programming, school-based physical education programming, and targeted physical activity interventions. This contributes to elevated rates of gross and fine motor delays, lower mood and self-regulation, and increased risk of chronic diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. Perform a systematic scoping review of the literature to assess known barriers to and facilitators of engaging in physical activity programming among children and adolescents with heterogeneous and/or comorbid psychiatric disorders, in order to improve engagement among this population in real world intervention settings. Systematic Boolean diagnostic and physical activity search terms were entered into PubMed, MEDLINE, PsycINFO and Web of Science for English-language studies published between 2005 and 2020, examining barriers and facilitators for common psychiatric diagnoses and general psychiatric population’s engagement in physical activity, physical education, sports, or exercise interventions. Two reviewers independently reviewed titles, abstracts and full articles to determine inclusion. A total of 5,198 articles were returned; 39 relating to children and adolescents were qualified for full-text review. After review, 24 studies were included addressing barriers and facilitators across multiple diagnoses; 7 studies were quantitative, 10 were qualitative, and 7 were mixed methods. Major barriers included low motivation, low self-efficacy, depleted parental reserve capacity, social isolation, lack of staff training, and safety concerns. Major facilitators included peer support/engagement, exergames, supportive parental behaviors, and inclusive/adaptive programming. Numerous barriers and facilitators to physical activity have been identified which should inform community, school, clinical, and research intervention program design. Further research is needed to develop effective strategies that address the challenges to inclusion that children and adolescents with heterogeneous and/or comorbid psychiatric disorders face.
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