Predicting physical activity in university students with disabilities: The role of social ecological barriers in the theory of planned behaviour

Disabil Health J. 2019 Oct;12(4):574-580. doi: 10.1016/j.dhjo.2019.06.008. Epub 2019 Jun 26.


Background: Even though university students with disabilities are less active than their peers without disabilities, there is scarce knowledge on the predictors of physical activity (PA) in this population.

Objectives: To predict PA in Spanish university students with disabilities using the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) and to examine the role of social ecological barriers within this theoretical framework.

Methods: Participants (N = 1079; Mean age = 40.12) for this cross-sectional study were recruited through the disability care services of 55 Spanish universities. The TPB constructs were assessed using a questionnaire. The Spanish short form of the International Physical Activity Questionnaire was used to measure PA and the reduced Spanish version of the Barriers to Physical Activity for People with Mobility Impairments was used to measure social ecological barriers.

Results: Two different models were computed through path analysis. Model 1 included the traditional TPB constructs and model 2 added a social ecological barriers variable. In both models, attitudes (β = 0.152; β = 0.152), subjective norms (β = 0.114; β = 0.115) and self-efficacy (β = 0.657; β = 0.659) each predicted PA intentions. PA intentions (β = 0.118; β = 0.122), self-efficacy (β = 0.225; β = 0.207) and controllability (β = 0.098; β = 0.075) predicted PA. In model 2, social ecological barriers predicted PA (β = 0.099). Regression analyses revealed intrapersonal barriers as a significant predictor of self-efficacy (β = -0.441). Controllability was predicted by intrapersonal barriers (β = -0.265), community barriers (β = -0.100) and organizational barriers (β = -0.095).

Conclusions: Future PA behaviour change interventions should target intentions, self-efficacy and controllability, since they directly predicted PA. These interventions would benefit from considering social ecological barriers to PA.

Keywords: Exercise; People with disabilities; Psychosocial predictors; Social ecological barriers; University.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disabled Persons* / psychology
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intention*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychological Theory
  • Self Efficacy*
  • Social Environment*
  • Spain
  • Students* / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Universities*
  • Young Adult