Overweight children's barriers to and support for physical activity

Marion F. Zabinski, Brian E. Saelens, Richard I. Stein, Helen A. Hayden-Wade, Denise E. Wilfley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

182 Scopus citations


Objective: As the epidemic of overweight increases among youth, research needs to examine factors that may influence children's participation in weight-related health behaviors. This study examined overweight children's perceived barriers to and support for physical activity compared with nonoverweight children. Research Methods and Procedures: Barriers to and support for physical activity were examined among 84 overweight children attending a summer fitness camp or a university-based weight loss clinic. Barriers and support levels were then compared with those of 80 nonoverweight children of a similar age range. Results: Body-related barriers were the most predominant barrier type among overweight youth, especially among overweight girls. Overweight children, particularly girls, reported significantly higher body-related, resource, and social barriers to physical activity compared with nonoverweight children and lower levels of adult support for physical activity. Discussion: Overweight children may be particularly vulnerable to body-related barriers to physical activity, and reducing such barriers may serve as physical activity intervention points most relevant for overweight youth. Future interventions may also benefit from enhancing support for physical activity from adults and peers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)238-246
Number of pages9
JournalObesity research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2003


  • Barriers
  • Children
  • Physical activity
  • Social support


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