The influence of the social environment on youth physical activity

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 5
  • SDG 4
  • Abstract:

    Research has highlighted the decline of physical activity during the last twenty years and identified adolescence as the age of the greatest decline. Despite the fact that the benefits of physical activity have been proven, many children and youth do not meet the current guidelines for sufficient physical activity. There are however various factors that influence physical activity levels amongst the youth and researchers have highlighted the links between environmental conditions and health-related behaviours such as physical inactivity. Therefore an increased emphasis exists on the role of the social and physical environment as key modifiable determinants of physical activity. The aim of this study is thus to explore the social environmental factors that influence the physical activity participation among female schoolgoing adolescents in the Western Cape. Focus group discussions were held with 55 school-going adolescents in a selected community in the Western Cape. The discussions yielded four (4) themes: safety; financial constraints, competing responsibilities and parental support. These themes highlighted that physical activity participation was influenced by the social, economic and physical environments that these adolescents live in. Opportunities to be physically active in an enjoyable and comfortable environment are undoubtedly essential for all girls. Therefore appropriate activity interventions taking into consideration issues related to social support, safety and cost-effectiveness of activities are more likely to effectively engage and sustain participation in physical activity.