The ‘double jeopardy’ of practice: Changing relationships between physical activity and young women from disadvantaged areas
The global ‘pandemic’ of physical inactivity is a leading cause of chronic non-communicable disease and early mortality (Pratt et al., 2020). Owing to the benefits of physical activity as a protective factor in combatting ill-health, there is an increasing emphasis on mobilising populations in both policy and practice. Despite this growing focus, however, evidence suggests that significant portions of society are not meeting physical activity recommendations and are thus at an increased risk of disease (WHO, 2022). Within society, certain groups report higher levels of inactivity, exacerbated by the intersection of demographic characteristics which enhance oppression, such as the ‘double jeopardy’ representing the heightened risk individuals who are both female and experiencing social disadvantage face in being inactive.
Interventions to increase physical activity are frequently characterised by behaviour change frameworks. Such frameworks focus on autonomous actors as drivers of change and are thus susceptible to value-action gaps (Blake, 1999), as well as underestimating the complex nature of physical activity participation. To address these shortcomings and access the frequently overlooked mediation between structure and agency in determining behaviour, this research adopted practice theory as a lens to explore disadvantaged girls’ relationships with physical activity.
Three studies were conducted: the first utilised observations and qualitative interviews to explore girls’ practice within community settings; the second involved interviewing key stakeholders to identify alignments and conflicts in practice; and the third piloted a coproduced walking programme and ‘practice mentor’ approach with a young woman, whereby walks were evaluated using a cyclical practice-based interviewing technique. Key findings included the desire and shift towards forms of physical activity that incorporate socialising, technology, person-centred approaches and choice, as well as the value in adopting a practice-based analysis to identify both problematic and facilitative elements/practices and add, remove or bundle practices in novel ways to promote physical activity participation. The research provided an alternative approach to a ‘wicked problem’ and contributes to a growing body of literature in employing practice theory in the field of physical activity and public health.
Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarship in partnership with Valleys Gymnastics Academy
- School of Sport and Health Sciences