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Health Educ Res. 2008 Aug;23(4):633-47. Epub 2007 Sep 25.

Girls and young women's participation in physical activity: psychological and social influences.

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  • 1Trust for the Study of Adolescence, 23 New Road, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 1WZ, UK.


The importance of increasing young women's level of physical activity is recognized as a priority within the United Kingdom and other Westernized nations. This study, conducted in two distinct geographical locations in the United Kingdom, explores the leading influences upon levels of physical activity participation among 75 young women aged 15-19. Through in-depth interviews, this study explores the influence of psychological and social influences, by examining contrasting accounts from those young women who 'always' and 'never' participate in sport or physical activity. The main differences lie with the always participates, relative to the never participates, reporting more positive images of 'sport', positive perceptions of their own ability, low self-consciousness, firm motivations and personal choice to engage in activities and the supporting influence of their friends and family. The study also notes the detrimental impact of life transitions such as moving from college to full-time employment. Further case study analyses reveal the friendship group as the primary influence over all other factors considered. The research concludes by summarizing the influences on physical activity participation that are pertinent to this age group, highlights theoretical implications, suggests possible intervention strategies and reports areas of further investigation that are required.

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