Local level APA organisations

At the local level adapted physical activity (APA) is arranged in co-operation by municipalities and their APA instructors, local social, health, disability and pensioner associations and sports clubs. This site contains information on local level APA actors and their activities.


Finland has about 310 municipalities (2017). Most of them are small, more than half of the municipalities have fewer than 6.000 residents. (2015). Municipalities act as the fundamental, self-governing administrative units of the country. They have broad responsibility for organizing the basic public services for their residents. For more information about the Finnish municipalities, visit Localfinland.fi.

The municipalities bear primary responsibility for organizing adapted-physical-activity services, facilities and support functions. About 95 municipalities have full-time APA instructors. These are mainly the municipalities of over 20.000 inhabitants. Some of the largest cities have hired two or more employees responsible for APA. Most of the municipalities (mainly small municipalities with under 10.000 inhabitants) do not have full-time APA instructors and about 30 % of these municipalities do not organize APA at all. Nevertheless about 80 % of the population of Finland live in municipalities that has an APA instructor. Municipalities have also approximately 400-500 hourly paid instructors.

The tasks of an APA instructor is to plan, organize and develop APA on his/her area in collaboration with other sectors of local administration, organizations and other partners. Instructors give expert consultancy for other partners when needed. They work as an important link between public and voluntary as well as a link between disability-specific and mainstream services. They instruct APA groups as far as possible and take care of information, communication, monitoring, statistics and training relating to APA. Here you can find more information about the development of local APA instructors' work in Finland.

Municipalities organize about 4.700 adapted physical activity groups weekly. Municipalities have on average 10 APA groups for every 10.000 inhabitants. The majority of these groups (about 60 %) are for elderly persons. The rest of these groups are targeted at disabled and chronically ill persons. Approximately 70.000 persons are involved in directed APA organized by municipal sports services. Most common forms are water and gym exercise and ball games.

About half of the municipalities aid the local associations, such as health, disability and pensioner associations and sports clubs, in arranging adapted physical action. The aid is on average 700 € for every association. The total annual expenditure of the municipalities on APA is at least about 7 million euros.

Municipalities own and maintain the majority of Finland's 36 000 sport facilities. Many of sport facilities are not suited for persons with disabilities, but the situation and knowledge abou accessibility is getting better all the time.

Local Associations

At the local level adapted physical activity is arranged also by social, health, disability and pensioner associations and sports clubs.

Finland has over 8.000 national and local social and health associations that have disabled and chronically ill persons as a member. Nearly one million Finns participate in their activities. Finland has also over 1.500 national, district and local pensioner associations. They have approximately 350.00 members. Physical activity plays an important part in their work in maintaining physical function of older adults and promoting health of disabled and chronically ill persons and in the treatment and rehabilitation of different diseases and symptoms.

18 national organizations in the field of public health, disability and physical activity are the members of Finnish Federation of Adapted Physical Activity (SoveLi). They have in total 1.100 local associations all over Finland and over 322.000 individual members. These local associations organize physical activity, mostly a health-promoting exercise for approximately 80.000 people. They arrange adapted physical action groups, events, tournaments, camps etc. Physical action is planned and arranged by 750 sports coordinators and contact persons. Physical activity is implemented by over 1.000 physical education instructors working together with sports coordinators. Local associations also support their members' own physical activity, for example by financing access to sporting activities and by providing information about sports facilities of the region.

The local pensioner associations arrange physical action groups and events for the members and their close relatives. Physical action groups are implemented by professional and volunteer physical education instructors. Local pensioner associations also arrange physical exercise as part of other activities such as various clubs, courses and meetings but also support their members' own physical activity.

Finland has about 9.000-10.000 sports clubs. Estimated about 30 % of the sport clubs have one or more members with a disability. Approximately 10 % of the sport clubs arrange adapted physical action groups. Most of these groups are targeted at children. The most common sports are swimming, football, gymnastics, dance, shooting sport, athletics and floorball.

The adapted-physical-activity of the mainstream sports clubs is evolving in two opposite directions. There are nowadays especially in the bigger towns new disability specific groups that focus on team sports or health-enhancing activities. At the same time, more participants with disabilities become involved in mainstream sports clubs. The demand for inclusive sports services and participation in mainstream sports clubs has increased in Finland. Also the interest of organizing activities for this group has increased in last few years. Nowadays 68 % of the sports clubs are interested in arranging adapted physical action. The biggest challenges for sports clubs to develop their activities is the lack of instructors and coaches, skills of the instructors and the lack of demand.


  • Timo Ala-Vähälä - Saku Rikala: Erityisliikunnan tilanne kunnissa 2013. Valtion liikuntaneuvoston julkaisuja 2014:5.
  • The website of the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities, www.localfinland.fi.
  • Insight into the current situation Finland. Finnish Sports Association of Persons with Disabilities VAU.
  • Aija Saari: Vammaisurheilu ja erityisliikunta lajiliitoissa. Valtion liikuntaneuvoston julkaisuja 2015:1. [Disability Sports and Adapted Physical Activity in Sports Federations. Publications of National Sports Council 2015:1.]
  • Aija Saari: Erityisliikunta ja vammaisurheilu seuroissa. VAU 2015. [Adapted Physical Activity and Disability Sports in Sports Clubs. VAU 2015]
  • Kari Koivumäki: Basic facts about adapted physical activity in Finland 2014. National Sport Council.

Photos: The Finnish Sports Association for Persons with Disabilities (VAU)

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