Date of Conferral







Carlos Diaz-Lazaro


The activity level among the U.S. population is low. Lack of exercise among individuals with disabilities adds a level of vulnerability to health issues for a population already facing multiple challenges. Despite considerable research on factors that may affect exercise among the general population, scant information is available about the relevance of such factors among individuals with disabilities. Furthermore, researchers have not used a coherent theoretical framework to explain empirical results. The present study addressed shortcomings in the literature by assessing, within the self-determination theory framework, if gender, self-efficacy, and self-determination predict exercise in individuals with a spina bifida. The Spina Bifida Association of America’s listserve facilitated the sampling of 180 adults between the ages of 18 and 64 years. Results from a standard multiple regression analysis indicated exercise self-efficacy and self-determination, but not gender, predicted exercise. Additional analyses showed the combination of competence, fitness motives, and age associated with reported exercise. Finally, exercise, gender, and perceived social support were predictors of life satisfaction. Results provide information clearly contradicting the stereotype of individuals with disabilities as being physically inactive. Findings also showed key variables professionals could implement in clinical and social support programs targeting individuals with spina bifida as well as those with other physical disabilities. Future researchers and practitioners can extend these findings to examine the predictors of exercise and life satisfaction among members of the spina bifida community.