Understanding parental physical activity: Meanings, habits, and social role influence

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Objectives:The research aimed to explore parents’ understandings of physical activity (PA), patterns of PA-related behaviour, and how constructions of social role expectations might influence their PA behaviour.Design and method:Using a qualitative descriptive design and adopting a social constructionism approach to broaden interpretations of parents’ understandings, 40 adults (21 mothers, 19 fathers; aged 23–49 years) living in South East Queensland, Australia participated in semi-structured individual and group interviews. The interviews were analysed using thematic analysis.Results:Parents had clear understandings of what constitutes PA and engaged in various activities which were integrated with or independent of the children. Being active with children, however, was not always constructed favourably in which many parents described the difficulties of being active with their children. All individuals experienced changes in their PA behaviours after having children. For most, a decline in PA level, intensity, and structure was experienced; however, some did experience parenthood as a time to be active. A level of acceptance for the lack of activity performed was also expressed as were feelings of resentment and envy for those who maintained previous activity habits. Parenting and partner roles were considered most influential on PA-related behaviour and were constructed in ways that had both positive and negative influences on activity performance. Parents, however, were empowered to construct strategies to resolve conflicts between social role performance and being active.Conclusion:Results show that parents experience unique difficulties that intervention work should consider when designing programs aimed at increasing parental PA.

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