The Sport Information Resource Centre
The Sport Information Resource Centre

Being physically active is such an important part of everyday life. Research has shown that being physically active goes a long way in helping prevent many different diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and depression. Despite this research, statistics show that children and adults are not as physically active as they should be.

Why aren’t we seeing healthy levels of participation? There may be some barriers that are presenting stumbling blocks for children and adults to participate in sport and physical activity. These include:

  • Gender. Adolescent girls face many different potential barriers, including academic pressure, parental discouragement, low expectations by physical education teachers, lower value placed on women’s competitive sports, lack of strong athletic role models and limited access to a safe space.
  • Financial Constraints. Organized sport programs can be prohibitively expensive for many adults, children and families. Some families may need the added income from their adolescents’ after school jobs that take priority over participation in sport.
  • Inclusive Sports. Many communities provide limited opportunities for children with disabilities to participate in sports. This can lead to lower self-esteem and social issues as the child grows up.
  • Lack of Facilities and Resources. Budget cuts in schools make it more difficult for teachers to offer physical activity to children every day, and a lack of affordable community programming make it more difficult for adults to participate in sporting activities.
  • Culture. Physical activity isn’t valued the same in all cultures, so some children are not encouraged to pursue sports and being physically active.

There are many positive opportunities to help overcome these barriers, thanks to the strength of the sport community in Canada. Some solutions to consider include:

  • Community programs and After-school Programs. The Canadian Tire Jumpstart program, KidSport, Right to Play, Motivate Canada, the Boys and Girls Club, and the YMCA are examples of organizations who strive to get kids involved in sport and be physically active, no matter what their financial situation. It may be examples of financial assistance, transportation, equipment donations, etc. that provide opportunities for participation.
  • School sports. Playing on an organized sports team or taking part in mandatory physical activity may help plant the seeds for a lifetime of healthy physical activity.
  • Disability Sport Organizations. The Canadian Paralympic Committee, Special Olympics Canada, and the Canadian Deaf Sports Association are example of organizations that offer opportunities to those with a physical or mental disability.
  • Female Sport Programs. Creating female focused sport programs has been shown to encourage young girls to participate. Organizations such as the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS) promote opportunities for girls and women being actively engaged in sports.
  • Benefits of Sport. Sport organizations have the opportunity to educate society on the mental, physical, and social benefits to being active regularly. Many organizations such as Canadian Sport for Life, Basketball Canada, Tennis Canada, and Hockey Canada offer programs designed to encourage kids to get involved in sports.
  • Flexible Fitness Programs. Work schedules have evolved and less people are working the common 9-5 workday. Fitness facilities are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to accommodate all type of lifestyles. And employers sometimes offer fitness and wellness incentives for sport and fitness in their benefits packages.

The benefits of participating in sports at any age are never ending, yet barriers exist for some people. Thanks to creative programing by sports organizations at all levels across the country, these barriers can be overcome. Keep these opportunities in mind when facing a potential sport participation barrier.

References from the SIRC Collection

Underserviced Children: Sports Participation Barriers and Best Practices. SIRCuit Athlete Pathways. pp 20-21. Fall 2014.

Chace M, Vilvens H. Opening the Doors for Health: School Administrators’ Perceived Benefits, Barriers, and Needs Related to Shared Use of School Recreational Facilities for Physical Activity. Journal of Physical Activity and Health. Volume 12, Number 7, pp. 1017-1022. 2015

Gunnell K, Brunet J, Wing E, Belanger M. Measuring Perceived Barriers to Physical Activity in Adolescents. Pediatric Exercise Science. Volume 27, Number 2, pp. 252-261. 2015

Kulavic K, Hultquist C, McLester John. A Comparison of Motivational Factors and Barriers to Physical Activity Among Traditional Versus Nontraditional College Students. Journal of American College Health. Volume 61, Number 2. 2012

Patay M, Patton K, Parker M, Fahey K, Sinclair C. Understanding Motivators and Barriers to Physical Activity. The Physical Educator. Volume 72, pp. 496-517. 2015