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Prev Med. 1999 Jun;28(6):608-15.

Perceived barriers to physical activity among high school students.

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  • 1Department of Public Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



Perceived barriers to physical activity, the factor structure of perceived barriers, and the relationship between perceived barriers and participation in vigorous physical activity were examined.


A two-stage cluster sample of high school students (N = 1,041) in a large Metropolitan Toronto school district was used. Students completed a questionnaire (response rate 81.4%) dealing with participation in physical activity in three settings. Factor analysis was used to examine the dimensionality of perceived barriers. Multiple regression analysis was then used to examine the relationship between perceived barriers and participation.


Time constraints due to school work, other interests, and family activities were three of the four barriers considered most important. Females cited consistently higher levels of perceived barriers than males. Two empirically distinct and theoretically meaningful factors emerged from the analysis--perceived internal barriers and perceived external barriers. Perceived internal barriers were predictive of physical activity in overall activity and outside of school activity. Perceived external barriers were predictive of overall physical activity and other school activity, but in the direction opposite to that hypothesized.


It was concluded that perceived barriers may be predictive of physical activity participation among high school students only under specific conditions.

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