Perceived Facilitators, Barriers, and Changes in a Randomized Exercise Trial for Obese Youth: A Qualitative Inquiry

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
Restricted access


Purpose was to examine experiences of obese youth aged 14 to 18 years during their participation in the Healthy Eating, Aerobic, and Resistance Exercise in Youth (HEARTY) randomized controlled exercise trial.


A longitudinal qualitative approach was used to investigate youths’ experiences across time points in the trial: 3-weeks (run-in phase; n = 44, 52% males), 3-months (midpoint; n = 25), and 6-months (end of intervention; n = 24). Participants completed telephone interviews on perceived exercise facilitators, barriers, outcomes, and program preferences. Responses were subject to content analyses and are reported as frequencies.


Participants joined the trial initially to lose weight, but focused more on fitness over time. Exercise behavior was influenced by a sense of achieving results, and by family and peers (ie, supportive comments, transportation). At 6-months, the most commonly perceived changes were improved fitness (50%) and appearance (46%). Suggested changes to the HEARTY trial included initial guidance by a trainer, and more varied and group-based activity.


Exercise facilitators, barriers and perceived changes in an exercise trial are reported. Access to a gym, initial direction by a trainer, variety, and group-based activities were reported as desired components of an exercise intervention. Findings also point to the importance of involving family and peer supports.

Peeters is with the Dept of Psychology, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Marchand and Tull-och are with the Dept of Psychology, The University of Ottawa Heart Institute, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Sigal is with the Dept of Medicine, Kinesiology, Cardiac Sciences, and Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Goldfield is with the Research Institute, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Hadji-yannakis is with the Faculty of Medicine, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Kenny is with the Clinical Epidemiology Program, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.