The specific circumstances and contexts that may affect overweight and obese children’s participation in physical activity have thus far been given little attention. The qualitative study discussed in this paper explores the experiences of overweight and obese children and young people who have successfully increased their activity levels.
The study sample was recruited from a community health and fitness scheme for children aged 5 to 16, with a Body Mass Index (BMI) at or above the 91st centile. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 58 children and young people. Data were analyzed using template analysis.
The children increased their feelings of capability to undertake physical activity, both while on the scheme and in other physical activity settings. They valued the range of ‘noncompetitive’ activities available and the nonthreatening atmosphere created. The ‘emotional’ support offered by the instructors was perceived as being integral to their enjoyment and continued participation.
Physical activity providers need to be able to generate opportunities which allow children of any weight status to participate without fear of stigmatization or bullying. The findings of the current study suggest that to be effective what we should be focusing on is improving the physical activity experience from the child’s perspective.