Facilitating factors and barriers to physical activity in secondary school students in Montevideo, Uruguay: A qualitative study

Irene Parobii, The University of Texas School of Public Health


PURPOSE The overarching aims of this study were to compare the beliefs, attitudes and practices around physical activity between boys and girls and socioeconomic status among a sample of adolescents in Montevideo. ^ METHODS Focus groups were conducted in three secondary schools in April and May 2013. The schools in this study represented middle-high, middle, and middle-low income areas. Seventh and eighth grade students composed a total of 4 focus groups (2 consisting of girls and 2 consisting of boys) at each school. Common themes regarding practices of physical activity during school and outside of school, as well as benefits and obstacles to physical activity, were identified. Data were analyzed using deductive and inductive content analysis and qualitative analysis software. ^ RESULTS Adolescents from higher income families are more likely to participate in recreational programs outside of school than those from lower income families. Mixed opinions exist about whether boys or girls are more active, however, sports tend to be gender-specified and there are feelings of danger in joint participation of activities. It is common for adolescents to spend time with family on the weekend; however, lack of parental support for participation in sports was commonly mentioned as an obstacle by middle-high income students. Lacking friends with whom to engage in physical activity was a unique obstacle to female participants. Participants believe there are social and health benefits to physical activity, and males identify more physical health benefits while females identify more mental health benefits. Finally, access to resources in the community and the school environment are important themes that affect adolescent physical activity. ^ CONCLUSIONS The results from this study suggest that programs use an ecological approach to increase physical activity among adolescents in Uruguay and Latin America. Specifically, targeting adolescents’ family, friends, schools, and community organizations is important due to their strong influence on physical activity. For example, improving the physical/social environments and community collaborations within schools may remove many obstacles to physical activity that are facing Uruguayan adolescents. Lastly, decreasing the number of sports or activities that are gender-specified as well as creating opportunities for safe joint-participation of physical activity may increase avenues for physical activity behavior.^

Subject Area

Secondary education|Latin American studies|Public health|Kinesiology

Recommended Citation

Parobii, Irene, "Facilitating factors and barriers to physical activity in secondary school students in Montevideo, Uruguay: A qualitative study" (2015). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1598349.