Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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'...So Yeah, You Do What You Can ...': Exploring the Barriers to Women's Opportunities for Physical Activity

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posted on 2021-11-09, 22:18 authored by Northcott, Marilyn Colleen

This research was prompted by the Sport and Recreation New Zealand (SPARC) survey study Obstacles to Action: A study of New Zealanders Physical Activity and Nutrition 2006. The study found a segment of respondents who were too busy and too stressed to take part in physical activity with any regularity, 67% were women. This finding invites closer examination of the kinds of barriers that keep women from having opportunities for physical activity: Why is it difficult for women in the 'Busy and Stressed' segment to be able to participate in physical activity? Many studies of physical activity are conducted from a health perspective examined as a population measure assessed in terms of frequency, intensity and duration, and fail to consider the multiple influences that shape women's physical activity decisions. Missing from the literature so far has been a comprehensive look at the factors affecting women's participation in physical activity from the context of their daily lives. This thesis draws on key literature from feminism, leisure studies and psychology and looks specifically at the social and personal context that lies behind women's decision-making about participating in physical activity. My methodology was based in Feminism and guided by Ecological Theory. Data collected from three focus group discussions centered on personal, social and environmental themes engaged the participants in sharing experiences that influence their opportunities for physical activity. Nineteen women between the ages of 25 and 49 participated in the focus groups. Most of them were in situations where they were juggling partners, work, study, and children and therefore were similar to SPARC's busy and stressed segment, and were not getting the recommended amount of physical activity. Results show that while the women's attitudes and experiences of physical activity were very positive, and they mainly had good levels of support, there was little time or opportunity to be able to participate in physical activity with any regularity. Women continue to be over represented as inactive in physical activity research, however there is less research at present that includes the voices of women about the trade-offs, uncertainties and negotiations involved in their opportunities to be physically active. This study addresses what I see as a significant gap in the research.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Social Science Research

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts (Applied)

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Social and Cultural Studies


Davidson, Lee