‘A prisoner of the self’: A thematic analysis exploring the reasons for reduced engagement in sport and exercise activities among female undergraduates
Objectives: Despite the positive effects of sport/exercise participation on well-being, engagement in these activities among female undergraduates decreases during the period of their studies. The study adopted a qualitative approach to explore the reasons for such decline and potential effects on well-being. Design: Semi-structured interviews were employed, consisting of a series of open questions, permitting flexibility and in-depth discussion. Methods: Participants were a purposive sample of 12 female university students aged between 18-25 years, studying at a British University. Participants had not engaged in sport or exercise activities for at least six weeks prior to interview. Using thematic analysis, four super-ordinate themes emerged, capturing key contributors to the reductions in sport/ exercise behaviours among female undergraduates. Results: Theme One - ‘You are your own worst enemy’ focuses on the cognitions that disable female sport/exercise participation. Theme Two – ‘The Social Spectrum’ captures a contradiction between senses of social isolation vs. support in male-dominated sporting/exercise environments. Theme Three - ‘Man, I feel like a woman’ explores the societal demands experienced by young women to maintain their physical femininity, whilst pursuing activities that might jeopardise this. Finally, Theme Four - ‘Coming of age’ focuses on how emergent responsibilities in the context of university life temporarily over-ride the priority of sport/exercise participation. Conclusions: The findings provide valuable insight into the inter-related reasons for declines in sport/exercise participation among a sample of female university students. We discuss our findings in terms of their implications for national campaigns and universities promoting such participation as key to psychological well-being.
Citation : McKinlay, E. and Wildbur, D.J. (2017) 'A prisoner of the self': A thematic analysis exploring the rasons for reduced engagement in sport and exercise activities among female undergraduates. Poster presented at the BPS Annual Conference, Brighton, UK
Research Group : Health Psychology
Research Institute : Institute for Psychological Science
Peer Reviewed : No