Date of Conferral





Public Health


Jacqueline Fraser


Research has shown that people with physical disabilities are at risk for developing secondary health conditions. Many of these secondary health conditions may be reduced by engaging in physical activity, yet people with physical disabilities are less likely to participate in physical activity. Information gaps remain regarding facilitators and barriers to physical activity. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to understand the experiences with physical activity among adults with a spinal cord injury (SCI). Research questions asked were about exercise experiences, barriers and facilitators, and the role of the natural and social environment. The theoretical framework used was the theory of planned behavior, in which attitudes and perceived advantages and disadvantages to performing a behavior are considered. In-depth interviews were conducted with 10 adults, 18 years of age and older, who have an SCI that requires the use of a wheelchair. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed thematically by identifying key phrases, determining recurring phrases, and grouping codes into themes. NVivo, a qualitative software, aided in the analysis. The participants in this study faced many obstacles, including physical and social barriers. Despite these barriers, participants recognized the importance of physical activity and identified factors that encouraged exercise. The implications for positive social change from this research include a better understanding among healthcare professionals working with people with disabilities and disability advocates of the experiences people with an SCI have when exercising and the potential to minimize the barriers to physical activity in an effort to reduce related secondary health conditions.