Understanding participation in sport and physical activity among children and adults: a review of qualitative studies
Qualitative research may be able to provide an answer as to why adults and children do or do not participate in sport and physical activity. This paper systematically examines published and unpublished qualitative research studies of UK children’s and adults’ reasons for participation and non-participation in sport and physical activity. The review covers peer reviewed and gray literature from 1990 to 2004. Papers were entered into review if they: aimed to explore the participants’ experiences of sport and physical activity and reasons for participation or non-participation in sport and physical activity, collected information on participants who lived in the United Kingdom and presented data collected using qualitative methods. From >1200 papers identified in the initial search, 24 papers met all inclusion criteria. The majority of these reported research with young people based in community settings. Weight management, social interaction and enjoyment were common reasons for participation in sport and physical activity. Concerns about maintaining a slim body shape motivated participation among young girls. Older people identified the importance of sport and physical activity in staving off the effects of aging and providing a social support network. Challenges to identity such as having to show others an unfit body, lacking confidence and competence in core skills or appearing overly masculine were barriers to participation.
It is generally accepted that physical activity confers benefits to psychosocial health, functional ability and general quality of life  and has been proven to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease  and some cancers . Here, physical activity refers to ‘any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure’ .
Conditions associated with physical inactivity include obesity, hypertension, diabetes, back pain, poor joint mobility and psychosocial problems [5–7]. Physical inactivity is a major public health challenge in the developed world and is recognized as a global epidemic . Within the United States, the rate of childhood obesity is expected to reach 40% in the next two decades  and Type 2 diabetes is expected to affect 300 million people worldwide within the same time .
The UK government has set a target for ‘70% of the population to be reasonably active (for example 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week) by 2020’ [8, 11] (p. 15). This target could be described as ambitious; only 37% of men and 24% of women in the United Kingdom currently meet this benchmark . The Health Survey for England (HSE)  found that the number of physically inactive people (less than one occasion of 30-min activity per week) was increasing and that this trend was consistent for both genders and across all age groups . Conventionally, sport and forms of physical activity such as aerobics, running or gym work have been the focus of efforts to increase population activity levels.