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Factors Affecting Participation: The Individual

Everyone is different.

Who we are shapes the choices we make in our lives—including choices about physical activity.

What are some of the individual differences that shape physical activity choices?

  • Demographics: gender, culture, age, and income levels
  • Biology: health, physical abilities, and limitations
  • Knowledge: regarding physical activity or particular sports
  • Skill: athletic or physical ability, experience
  • Woman on farmPsychology: feelings/attitudes about physical activity, belief in one’s ability to achieve physical activity goals (i.e., self-efficacy), energy, and motivation
  • Family situation: single, multi-generational, and number/type of dependents

Supporting Physical Activity at the Individual Level

How you support physical activity on an individual level depends on the particular role you play.

If you have face-to-face contact with an individual (client, patient, community member, etc.), you may be able to easily identify the factors that affect his or her ability to participate in physical activity. Through watching and talking to an individual, you will learn many things about his or her situation. In other cases, you may need to learn more about the individuals you are trying to reach. You can do so informally by simply chatting with individuals, family members, and peers. A more formal approach might involve interviews and counseling sessions.

When supporting physical activity on an individual level, consider the following:

  • Programs, services and opportunities need to be unique and may need to be tailored to an individual’s situation. For example, a program that works well for older men may not work well for older women. Or a program that works for older women may not work for younger women.
  • Different people are interested in different types of Man in wheelchair weightliftingphysical activity. They want to participate in activities that are fun for them.
  • You may think physical activity is great—but not everyone does. Be sensitive to past experiences and beliefs regarding physical activity.
  • Creating opportunities to gain and learn skills can help an individual gain confidence.
  • Provide education and create awareness about the benefits of physical activity and about starting and staying active.

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