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Original Research

Perceived facilitators and barriers to physical activity for rural youth: an exploratory study using photovoice

Submitted: 21 June 2011
Revised: 28 October 2011
Published: 23 January 2012

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Author(s) : Walia S, Leipert B.

Saagar WaliaBeverly Leipert

Citation: Walia S, Leipert B.  Perceived facilitators and barriers to physical activity for rural youth: an exploratory study using photovoice. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2012; 12: 1842. Available: (Accessed 24 October 2017)


Introduction: Decreasing physical activity levels, particularly among youth, continue to be a prominent health concern in Canada, and youth living in rural areas may encounter unique facilitators and barriers to physical activity. In addition, current research suggests that overweight and obesity rates are higher for youth in some rural areas compared with urban areas. The goal of this study was to identify the perceived facilitators and barriers to physical activity for a selected sample of rural youth at a rural secondary school in south-western Ontario and examine how rural barriers and facilitators affect rural youth physical activity. Current Canadian literature addresses rural youth physical activity in a very limited fashion. Thus, the goal of this research was to provide important insights into physical activity for rural youth.
Method: Nine participants aged 13 to 18 years completed the study using the photovoice methodology and method. Photovoice is a relatively new method for health research that adopts an innovative approach whereby participants use cameras to document their perceived health realities. In photovoice the images and words from the life experiences of participants create the basis for discussion. Participants had 2 weeks to take photographs. After 2 weeks the cameras and logbooks were retrieved, the photographs were developed, and a one-on-one interview was held with each participant. The interviews focused on participants’ explanations of their photographs and their relevance to physical activity.
Results: Analysis of the pictorial, narrative, and logbook data provided by participants revealed 12 themes as facilitators and barriers to physical activity. Some of the themes relate to facilitators (eg early exposure to activities), some to barriers (eg lack of opportunities close to home), and some themes represent both a facilitator and a barrier (eg competitiveness, family support, and peer interests). The findings of this study may assist community stakeholders, school officials, and parents to better support the physical activity needs of rural youth.
Conclusions: Physical activity rates continue to decline and to be a major health concern for Canadian youth. Thus, it is becoming increasingly important to understand physical activity from the perspective of rural youth. Implications of this information for rural communities, rural schools, and rural residents are significant. These implications and recommendations may help facilitate increased participation in physical activity for rural youth by providing them, and their families and communities, with enhanced opportunities and resources to engage in physical activity. Further research is clearly indicated.

Key words: Canada, exercise, photovoice, physical activity, youth.

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