The barriers to exercise
According to Dr Hnatiuk, regular physical activity for parents and children is important for many aspects of their health, including improved cardiometabolic health, bone and muscle health, and aspects of cognition and mental health.
But the study identified a range of barriers experienced by families that stop parents from getting involved in physical activity with their young children.
“Some examples of key barriers included having small spaces both indoors and outdoors in their home, a lack of community facilities, such as parks with suitable equipment and shaded areas, or shops they could walk or cycle to in their local area,” Dr Hnatiuk says.
“There is also the issue of poor neighbourhood designs, such as poor quality or no footpaths, busy roads not safe to walk or cycle on, or large distances between destinations and social networks.
“Others cited friends, family or neighbours who were also interested in physical activity.
“These barriers are likely to be experienced in addition to more general time pressures experienced by parents with young children, such as competing priorities and demanding work schedules.”
This study sheds light on what families see as the key benefits to engaging in physical activity together, and also what helps and hinders participation in physical activity with their young children.
Dr Hnatiuk hopes the insights gained from the study can inform public health policy, community programming, and neighbourhood and housing design.
“By identifying key barriers, we can also better support parents to incorporate physical activity with their children into everyday life. We found that a lot of these barriers are quite complex and really dependent on a number of contextual factors. For example, small yards on a quiet street did not appear to be a barrier but small yards on a busy road did.”
According to Dr Hnatiuk, parents should be aware that parks can be excellent community resources for engagement in physical activity for people of all ages, so ensuring that families are aware of the parks and facilities in their local area is important.
“However, what can also be useful is to support parents to identify ways that they and their children can incorporate physical activity at home - even in small indoor spaces, on balconies, with limited equipment.”