Nosek MA, Robinson-Whelen S, Ledoux TA, Hughes RB, O'Connor DP, Lee RE, Goe R, Silveira SL, Markley R, Nosek TM, and the GoWoman Consortium (2018). "A Pilot Test of the GoWoman Weight Management Intervention for Women with Mobility Impairments in the Online Virtual World of Second Life." Disability and Rehabilitation. 

Objective: Pilot test GoWoman, a small-group weight management intervention for mobility impaired women that was a disability- and gender-responsive adaptation of the Diabetes Prevention Program delivered in the online virtual world of Second Life®. Objectives were to (1) examine pre-/post-intervention differences in weight, waist circumference, diet, physical activity, self-efficacy for diet and physical activity, nutrition knowledge and social support for weight management, (2) determine intervention feasibility (fidelity, attrition, engagement, acceptability).

Design: Single-group modified interrupted time series quasi-experimental design whereby participants served as their own controls.

Results: Thirteen women attended ≥8 of 16 GoWoman weekly sessions and lost an average of 5.97 pounds (2.71 kg) (3.31%) body weight (Cohen’s d = 0.74) and 1.44 inches (3.66 cm) (3.58%) waist circumference (Cohen’s d = 0.83). There were significant improvements in physical activity, diet and self-efficacy for diet and physical activity. All benchmarks for feasibility were met. Ratings of intervention content, group interactions and support and virtual world experiences were highly positive.

Conclusion: Findings suggest that a disability- and gender-responsive weight management intervention with peer group support delivered in an online virtual world is feasible, meaningful and may assist with weight management for mobility impaired women.

Implications for Rehabilitation:

This study addresses a gap in the general and rehabilitation research literature by addressing the disproportionately high rates of obesity among women with mobility impairments, who are generally excluded from tests of weight management interventions if they have limited ability to engage in vigorous physical activity.

The GoWoman program is an adaptation of the Diabetes Prevention Program Lifestyle Change curriculum that is tailored to meet the unique weight management needs of women with mobility impairments, and was created to become a publicly available, disability- and gender-responsive intervention that can be used in community and rehabilitation settings.

More rehabilitation and health promotion program should be offered in the free, online, virtual world of Second Life® since participants in this pilot study offered many favorable comments about the new learning and social opportunities available to them there and they did not have to deal with the disability-related environmental and health challenges that often prevent them from participating in face-to-face workshops.

Preliminary indications of improvements in body weight, waist circumference, diet and physical activity after attending the GoWoman weight management intervention offered in Second Life® tell us that these strategies are feasible for helping women with mobility impairments manage their weight and should undergo further testing.


Silveira SL, Ledoux TA, Robinson-Whelen S, Stough R, Nosek MA (2017). "Methods for classifying obesity in spinal cord injury: a review." Spinal Cord 55(9): 812-817.

STUDY DESIGN: Narrative review.

OBJECTIVES:Review methods used to measure and classify obesity in individuals with spinal cord injuries (SCI). Outline the strengths and weaknesses of each method used to measure obesity in individuals with SCI.

SETTING: International.

METHODS: PubMed was used to identify articles before 2016. Search terms ('obesity' or 'weight status' and 'spinal cord injury'). Filters: adults, English and human. Studies were retained that (1) included participants, 18 years or older, with SCI; (2) took place in inpatient, outpatient or community-based settings and (3) measured obesity status. Unique methods for classifying individuals with SCI as obese were identified and examples are presented.

RESULTS: Methods identified for classifying obesity were as follows: World Health Organization body mass index (BMI) cutoff 30 kg m(-2), BMI cutoff 25-29 kg m(-2), and SCI-specific BMI cutoff 22 kg m(-2), waist circumference cutoff (women >102 cm, men >88 cm), percent body fat cutoffs 25% using bioelectrical impedance analysis and dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, computerized tomography scan visceral fat area 100 cm(2) and percentage of ideal body weight.

CONCLUSIONS: BMI is the most widely used measure of obesity in the SCI literature. Although some studies identified alternative cutoffs or other metrics, there is no standardized obesity classification in SCI. However, research is needed to determine and validate obesity classification specific to SCI due to physiological changes that occur following injury. We recommend that researchers and clinicians proceed with caution and use methodology based on the purpose of measurement.


Nosek MA, Robinson-Whelen S, Hughes RB, Petersen NJ, Taylor HB, Byrne MM, Morgan R (2008). "Overweight and obesity in women with physical disabilities: Associations with demographic and disability characteristics and secondary conditions." Disability and Health Journal 1(2): 89-98.

Background: This cross-sectional study was designed to examine weight in association with demographic and disability characteristics and secondary conditions in a sample of community living women with physical disabilities.

Methods: 443 predominantly ethnic minority women with physical disabilities were recruited through public and private health clinics and community organizations. They completed questionnaires including measures of body mass index and a health conditions checklist.

Results: Data showed that nearly three-quarters of the sample were overweight (26.6%) or obese (47.6%) with 14% extremely obese. Obesity was highest among middle aged women (aged 45-54, 52.7%; aged 55-64, 52.5%; compared to aged 18-44, 37.8%; or aged ≥65, 39.1%). Black (84.0%) and Hispanic women (83.8%) were more likely to be overweight or obese compared to non-Hispanic white women (56.7%). Women with joint and connective tissue diseases and women with more extensive functional limitations were more likely to have excess weight. Disability factors were more strongly associated with excess weight than demographic factors other than age. Weight classification was significantly related to whether or not the women had ever had diabetes or blood pressure problems. Diabetes was reported 4 times as often as among women in general (36.3% versus 8.9%), and hypertension nearly twice as often (56.2% versus 30.9%).

Conclusions: These findings indicate extremely high rates of overweight and obesity in women with physical disabilities, a growing population greatly in need of effective weight management interventions. Overweight and obesity in combination with disability in women was associated with disproportionately high rates of diabetes and hypertension.


Nosek MA, Hughes RB, Robinson-Whelen S, Taylor HB, Howland CA (2006). "Physical activity and nutritional behaviors of women with physical disabilities: physical, psychological, social, and environmental influences." Women’s Health Issues 16(6): 323-333.

Introduction. We examined predictors of 2 important health behaviors, namely, physical activity and nutritional behaviors, in a sample of community-living women with physical disabilities (N=386).

Method. We conducted a cross-sectional survey with regression analysis. Results. Our regression model accounted for 33.5% of the variance in physical activity. Women with joint problems or multiple sclerosis tended to engage in less physical activity than those with stroke-related disabilities. Those who had lived with their disability longer and those experiencing greater pain tended to report less physical activity. Consistent with the literature, women with greater self-efficacy for physical activity tended to engage in more physical activity. The regression model for nutritional behaviors accounted for 37.9% of the variance. Women with better mobility, greater self-efficacy for nutrition, and more vitality had better nutritional behaviors while those who needed assistance with activities of daily living, had lower social functioning scores, and were engaged in more productive activities reported poorer nutritional behaviors.

Conclusions. Our findings highlight the importance of self-efficacy for improving health behaviors. Further research is needed to develop a new paradigm for the measurement of health behaviors, one that focuses on individual improvement rather than comparison to a norm, and health promoting interventions that are responsive to the needs and life circumstances of women with physical disabilities.