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Corien Peeters, Hannah Marchand, Heather Tulloch, Ron J. Sigal, Gary S. Goldfield, Stasia Hadjiyannakis and Glen P. Kenny

Background:

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.

Methods:

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.

Results:

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.

Conclusions:

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.