Conceptualising barriers and supports for physical activity: A qualitative assessment

Sherer W. Royce, Patricia A. Sharpe, Barbara E. Ainsworth, Mary L. Greaney, Linda J. Neff, Karla A. Henderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objectives: Community indicators for physical activity were conceptualised by assessing citizens' perceived barriers and supports for physical activity within their community. Suggestions regarding community improvements by multiple sectors of the community (government, non-profit organisations, voluntary organisations, private organisations and leisure time organisations) were also elicited from the study participants. Design: An exploratory study using qualitative methods was designed using the socio-ecological framework to guide question development. A purposive sample to reflect the community's demographics was selected. Attention was given to within-group homogeneity. Data were collected during a three-month period. Setting: The research was conducted in a southeastern US city of approximately 45,000 residents within a county of over 100,000 residents. Methods: An experienced, Master's level moderator facilitated six focus groups (n=53). The discussions were tape recorded and supplemented with detailed notes. Concepts were extracted by qualitative coding and analysis. Results: Barriers included availability/accessibility of facilities; low social support and few social models; time constraints; racial/cultural barriers; safety; lack of infrastructure (sidewalk, trails); and lack of community walkability. Supports included public and private facilities, good climate, and programming at many venues. Suggestions for change include public education, advocacy efforts, infrastructure improvement and supportive policy change. Conclusions: The socio-ecological model is an effective tool for conceptualising information about the many influences on and indicators for physical activity behaviour because it gives equal attention to each level of potential influence on physical activity behaviour (intrapersonal, interpersonal, organisational, community and policy/societal). The focus group process is an effective means for citizens to identify the factors affecting their physical activity behaviour because it solicits responses about participants' lived experiences without the restricted response categories that quantitative methods impose. Findings are relevant to intervention planning to increase physical activity. Participation in focus group research may also stimulate an interest for action towards community change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-56
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Health Promotion and Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003


  • Focus group
  • Physical activity
  • Socio-ecological model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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