Quality Physical Activity Participation for Military Veterans with a Physical Disability

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Shirazipour, Celina
Military , Veteran , Disability , Participation , Sport , Physical activity
Minimal research has explored what comprises a quality physical activity (PA) participation experience, particularly among military Veterans with a physical disability for whom evidence of the benefits of PA is growing. To address this research gap, this dissertation examines quality PA participation among military Veterans with a physical disability. Manuscript 1 explores the views of Veterans with a physical disability regarding what elements constitute a quality PA experience, and how these elements may be fostered. Eighteen Veterans with various physical disabilities and PA experiences participated in interviews. Four quality elements were identified via thematic analysis: group cohesion, challenge, having a role, and independence and choice. A further three factors (the physical and social environments, and program structure) were identified as precursors for a quality experience. Manuscript 2 explores how PA programs for Veterans with a physical disability are delivered, and how these delivery strategies link conceptually to quality participation. Interviews were conducted with program staff from three PA programs for Veterans, and program documentation collected, to develop an understanding of program delivery strategies. Four strategies with potential links to quality participation were identified through thematic analysis: foster social connections, challenge participants, tailor programs and outcomes to match participant needs, and include knowledgeable coaches and instructors. Manuscript 3 evaluates the participation of Veterans with functional impairments in PA events, and examines the relationships among quality precursors, quality elements, and participation outcomes. Results indicate that program participation did not promote long-term increases in PA indicators. However, an indicator of the quality element belongingness mediated the relationship at particular time-points between coach interpersonal skills and three participation outcomes: family integration, PA intentions, and PA planning. These findings suggest that a quality participation experience created by coaches may positively impact the transition to civilian life, and promote efforts to engage in ongoing PA. Overall, this dissertation contributes towards a greater depth in understanding of the experiences of Veterans with a physical disability in PA programs. The findings begin to provide a foundation for researchers and practitioners aiming to create, deliver, and promote quality PA interventions and programming for Veterans with a physical disability.
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