Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Nursing


The aim of this study was to explore and understand the meaning that people with diabetes attribute to being involved in a specialised program involving exercise and health promotion. Diabetes is a prevalent and chronic disease both in Australia and internationally with known benefits and outcomes from involvement in physical activity. However, there is still a lack of commitment and sustaining of exercise regimens by people with diabetes.

In order to understand and interpret the meaning behind the reasons why the 15 participants chose to engage in an exercise and health promotion program, a phenomenological approach was used. More specifically, an approach using Heideggarian interpretive phenomenology, using van Manen’s (1990) methodological framework provided a structure and a guide to the inquiry into the lived experiences of the participants who had diabetes and were participating in a program called Beat It.

The research study was designed in a way so as to answer the question: ‘What does it mean for people with diabetes to be part of a therapeutic recreation program involving exercise and health promotion?’. Participants were invited to share their stories and uncover meanings in their experiences, and to facilitate this, data collection occurred in two phases. First, semi-structured, conversational individual interviews occurred, and then, once preliminary analysis of themes had occurred, a focus group was held to member check. Data analysis conformed to van Manen’s Six Step Methodical Structure (1990), which uses a Heideggerian hermeneutical research methodology and enabled identification of thematic statements.

Within the participants’ story-telling, the meaning of the program Beat It, for people with diabetes, emerged through methodical synthesis of participant voices in interviews and a focus group. The meaning that participants’ ascribed to their experience was revealed in two themes: people and structure. Within the themes, elements were identified. The theme, People, entailed three elements: motivation, connectedness and psychological benefits. The theme, Structure, consisted of two elements: physical benefits and instructor. Embedded within the participants voices and stories was the essence of their experiences – the meaning that each participant attributed to their experiences of undertaking the exercise and health promotion program. This essence was found to be person-centred program efficacy that gave meaning to the experience.

Understanding the meaning that people with diabetes attribute to being involved in a specialised exercise and health promotion program, facilitates the development of more tailored programs that can better enhance health and wellbeing in this population of people. The development of person centred diabetes programs can then help to minimise preventable health conditions associated with the disease. Implications for researchers and diabetes service providers are centred on the need for further research exploring the subjective views of people with diabetes, with a focus on partnering with and engaging those with diabetes in designing and planning programs that facilitate commitment.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.