An ecologically based examination of barriers to physical activity in students from grade seven through first-year university
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PURPOSE: The first purpose was to identify barriers to physical activity that students in grade seven through first-year university experienced. A second purpose was to classify barriers using an ecological framework and to examine the pattern of barrier categories (i.e., intrapersonal, interpersonal, institutional, community, public policy, and physical environmental) and specific barrier types as grade increased. The use of an ecological model addressed limitations in prior research revolving around the identification of salient barriers in a manner that makes the design of effective interventions difficult. METHODS: Participants in grades 7-8 (n = 35), 9-10 (n = 67), 11-12 (n = 80), and the freshmen year of university (n = 109) listed barriers to physical activity on an open-ended measure. RESULTS: Findings revealed a trend for the average number of barriers reported per student to increase as grade in school increased. First-year university students reported significantly more barriers than all other grade groupings. The frequency of barriers reported within the ecological categories was dependent on the specific grade groupings. Further, within each ecological category, distinct barriers were reported across the different grade groupings. CONCLUSIONS: Findings highlight the utility of using an ecological model to categorize barriers, rather than simply classifying barriers as internal or external to an individual, as done in prior research. Understanding the pattern of ecologically based barrier categories and specific types of barriers will help to inform the content of future research and interventions designed to alleviate salient barriers to physical activity.
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