Single-Parent Families: Barriers To Participation in Physical Activity and Leisure

By: Natalie G.

Single-parent families are more common in today’s contemporary society than ever before. As we all know as kinesiology students, physical activity and leisure are important in our daily lives and foster many benefits. We, as students, take the time out of our week to go to the gym to workout or engage in a sport/leisure activity despite all of the workloads we have. However, in single-parent families, the barriers are far greater which prevents them from engaging in physical activity to receive the benefits and socially connect through leisure. In class, we have gone over the challenges single-parent families face and they are economic challenges, parental conflict, less parental supervision of children, and less time for household tasks, child care tasks, and personal leisure (Shannon-McCallum, 2018). From a personal perspective, I grew up in a single-parent home as an only child and my mother never engaged in leisure activities due to financial issues, lack of time, unmotivated, supervision issues, and many more. Results of her not engaging in physical activity or leisure have increased her risks of health issues and lessened our social connectedness as a family.

As a class, we looked into considering family. We need to consider family, especially single-parent families because family is a location/context in which we enjoy leisure, it is often the most important social agent as family transmits attitudes, values, behaviour, and culture from one generation to another, and children are taught and reproduce gender roles (Shannon-McCallum, 2018). Families play a large influence on children on whether they are going to engage in physical activity/leisure activities or not. Children will develop values and attitudes towards leisure and sport and are likely to reproduce their family gender roles from their own parents. Therefore, is it important for parents (particularly single-parent families) to engage in physical activity and leisure by possibly removing or decreasing their barriers to participate, and remodel for their children.

Digging deeper into this topic, an article by Azar, Naughton, and Joseph (2009) explored physical activity and social connectedness in single-parent families. They found that single-parent families have more challenges than dual-parent families. “Often single-parents report less perceived social support, fewer connections with friends and families and lower levels of social engagement than parents in ‘coupled’ families” (Azar et al., 2009, p. 2). Through the study, a program at the YMCA (Active Families Project) was developed for families (parents) to engage in physical activity, reduce their barriers, and build a better social network with others. The results found that the single parents had reduced barriers, stronger social networks, and supervision. The program at the YMCA found a threefold in the results. The first one was the number of perceived barriers to physical activity decreased over time. The second one was improved social connections with friends and family by more conversations over the phone and more visits. The third one was increased physical activity through the single-parents and their children (Azar et al., 2018).

Growing up, if there was a program in my community willing to help out families at the time, my mother would have been more engaged in her leisure pursuits and our social connectedness would have been greater. She felt that her lack of time due to work and supervision issues was the main factor as to why she did not engage in physical activity or her leisure pursuits. Programs at the YMCA that focus on families are important because this gives parents the opportunities to engage in leisure and sports activities, by removing the barriers and create stronger social networks. Single-parents need programs in their community like this to receive the benefits of physical activity and social networking, and to feel that their barriers are not as heavy as dual-parent families. Additionally, single-parents have to want the help from programs and others, to reduce their barriers. Throughout the study, 20 participants were unable to be contacted, 11 of them withdrew, and 3 loss interests (Azar et al., 2009); thus, parents have to want the help to be committed to reducing their barriers to increase their physical activity and leisure. Although this study was just a project, the benefits are similar to a real program that wants to help out local families.

Looking more into single-parent mothers versus single-parent fathers, the barriers are still similar. Beginning with single-parent mothers, “Single mothers are often the primary or sole income provider for the family and spend nearly as much time with their children as married mothers (Kendig & Bianchi, 2008), potentially leaving less time for engaging in physical activity” (Dlugonski & Motl, 2014, p. 2). To bring back my personal experience with a single-parent mother, she was also considered low income, which had an impact on her physical activity and leisure. “Low-income single mothers reported feeling fatigued and stressed because of work-family conflicts in a qualitative study (Son & Bauer, 2010) and these feelings might further impact motivation to participate in physical activity” (Dlygonski & Motl, 2014, p.2). Due to her low-income salary, this had an impact on her participation in leisure and sports due to fees and equipment costs, which resulted in her motivation to be absent to participate in physical activity.

On the contrary, single-parent fathers also have the same barriers to their physical activity and leisure. Although there is not much research on single-parent fathers, they experience the same barriers. They are the providers of their children and may have issues with supervision and financial costs, which can result in lack of participation in physical activity and their leisure pursuits. They are consumed in taking their children to their sports and leisure activities every week; they struggle to find time for their own physical activity, which can create a large barrier.

In relation to the Gender, Leisure, and Sport course, this topic is significant. I believe it is important to provide support to the single-parent families considering they are more common in today’s society. Single-parent mother and fathers have a lot more responsibilities than dual parent families. Therefore, it is important for organizations to provide programs in place for local families to create those opportunities for them to engage in physical activity and leisure and reduce those barriers. Single-parents also have to want the help offered by the organizations to create opportunities for themselves. Many benefits are fostered when single-parents barriers are reduced such as their perceived barriers to physical activity decreases, improved social connections, and increased physical activity levels (Azar et al., 2009).


Azar, D., Naughton, G. A. & Joseph, C.W. (2009). Physical activity and social connectedness in single-parent families. Leisure Studies, 28(3), 349-358

Shannon-McCallum, C. (2018). Lecture 9 – Family and Leisure(I)_Cole. In Lecture at UNB.

Dlugonski, D. & Motl, R. (2014). Social cognitive correlates of physical activity among single-parent mothers with young children. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 637-641


Co-ed and same-sex sports and physical education, which one is better?

By Rachel G.

In class, we have discussed the constraints or barriers that adolescents have today when it comes to participating in sports and leisure. These constraints can become quite obvious in the physical education classes at school. In recent studies the question of whether co-ed or same sex is better for students is raised. It is still up for debate and is research is still ongoing. Is one more positive for one sex and negative for the other? Or do they both benefit in one over the other. In the following two articles, the researchers both conducted studies of young adolescences in the education system, the first was observational and the second included interviews with teachers. After reading these articles the constraints that both sexes have, are clearly present.

Mckenzie, Prochaska, Sallis, and LaMaster (2004) found that there was more “play time” in boys-only classes versus girls only. This, in turn, lead to girls also spending less time in physical activity during the lesson time. Girls tended to get more moderate-vigorous physical activity in girls-only classes. Boys, on the other hand, had the same amount in both co-ed and boys only. Girls-only classes usually spent more time on skill drills because girls generally have lower motor and sports skill levels at this age. However, with boys playing more, this could lead to boys to having greater preference for team games. Findings from previous studies indicate many girls do not prefer co-ed physical education classes, and may be at a disadvantage while participating in them. They suggested that girls-only physical education may better address some educational needs of adolescent girls, allowing educators to take the time to pay more attention to skill development. This study did acknowledge that they did not examine individual student level factor and suggested further study on classroom composition and lesson plans. They stated that the complexities of gender issues and gender equity in physical education are substantial. This also takes into consideration the varying societal expectations for behaviours in different cultural environments.

The second article by Wright (1997), interviewed numerous physical education teachers both male and female that taught co-ed and same sex classes. They found that girls in co-ed were more easily embarrassed to make a mistake and avoided physical contact with their male peers in sport situations, this lead to much more resistance from the girls compared to the boys to participate. The male students usually received more praise than girls because they participated more in co-ed settings. Female students tended to ask more questions and have longer conversation with their teacher about the lesson. With male students, it was some quick short interactions in regards to the sporting lesson. Both male and female teachers had more interpersonal interactions with female students verses male students. These same teachers also usually anticipated or assumed that female students would have a less knowledge on the sport and would need more instruction and encouragement. In most of the boys-only lessons it was clear that the teacher expected the boys to bring sufficient resources to participate in skill practices and games with less introduction or instruction. In the skills practice, which followed the explanation, where the male teachers were teaching boys, there were long pauses while the boys practiced without any commentary. The opposite would happen with girls-only practice, with much more frequent stops to explain more. Where the female and male teachers’ language seems to suggest that they were more likely to take into account the girls’ reactions, their experiences and needs; the male teachers in their talk to boys were more likely to establish what had to be done and how and then let the boys get on with their tasks. For male students who were non-compliant, it was assumed it had nothing to do with his individual identity but brought into question is masculinity. On the other hand, females who were non-complaint ironically confirmed their positioning as feminine. Usually the language of the teachers usually unconsciously positioned students in relation to cultural views on gender. This article put social relations at the center of concerns and suggested that teachers should tried to developed a better understand of their actions and language with their students.

This second article was published in 1997, I’d like to believe that the educational system has become more aware of the language they use with their male and female students. However, there are some aspects that are still prevalent today. Some of the observations stated I can clearly think back to my own high school days and relate. Both articles in the end did not say that one way of organizing the students was better than the other. It seems evident that it really comes down the individual. Some females would feel more comfortable than others to participate in co-ed sports of physical education. Coming back to the constraints of adolescent girls; body image, lack of self-confidence, shyness, over competitiveness and parental influence. At this age they are taking into consideration what society thinks women should be. Engaging in sports with other males, could be viewed as being too masculine. On the other hand, male students who don’t want engage in sport in co-ed situations could be teased or viewed to be like the girls. Male constraints include: body image, pressure to conform to masculine roles, lack of skill has no place and parental influences.

The classroom should be a place where social constructs like these are meant to be broken. The way teachers talk or treat females and males should be more equal or neutral and teachers should not make overall assumptions about either sex. It is hard to ignore the influence of outside factors such as media and parents. The classroom however should be an open-minded place where students shouldn’t be ridiculed on how they participate in certain sports. The focus of the classroom should be to encourage all students to be physically active, healthy and to teach them about different sports. In a coaching setting, again coaches need to be more conscious about the language they use with their players no matter the sex. Evidently there are benefits to both co-ed and same sex sports and recreation.  More research needs to be done, in order to possibly choose one over the other. However, I believe that it really comes down to the individual which is more beneficial.


McKenzie, T. L., Prochaska, J. J., Sallis, J. F., & LaMaster, K. J. (2004). Coeducational and Single-Sex Physical Education in Middle Schools: Impact on Physical Activity. Research Quarterly For Exercise & Sport75(4), 446-449.

Wright, J. (1997). The construction of gendered contexts in single sex and co‐educational physical education lessons. Sport, Education and Society, 2(1), 55-72.



Depression: Exercise as a Treatment Option

by Kaitelynn T.

Depression is one of the most prevalent mental illnesses in Canada. Through a community survey the Public Health Agency of Canada determined that 11.3% of adults living in Canada identified symptoms that meet the criteria for depression. With such a high rate of the population being affected researchers have become increasingly interested in finding new and alternative treatments to treat or assist in treating the symptoms of depression. One of the new ways to treat depression that researchers are exploring is exercise.

Although never diagnosed with depression, I along with everyone else, have experienced a range of high and low days. Once I started university I found that the lows were becoming more frequent. In high school I always had a sport to play and therefore exercised on a daily basis. However, once in university I had little to no exercise and didn’t participate in intramural sports. About halfway through my first year I decided to try going for a run and found an immediate improvement in my mood. It became a habit to go for a run a couple times a week and I found that the lows were not so frequent anymore. Even on my bad days going for a run was a way to focus solely on breathing and moving my legs. Looking back on this I decided to look into what research had been done on the topic of exercise as a treatment option for depression. I found many articles where the data indicated that exercise did indeed have a positive effect on the symptoms of depression.

The first article I examined was, Exercise as a Treatment Option for Depression: A Meta-analysis Adjusting for Publication Bias, by Schuch et al. This article states that “Our data strongly support the claim that that exercise is an evidence based treatment for depression”. This article does specify that some types of exercise are more effective than other. For example it found that moderate aerobic activities led by a professional appeared to have a larger positive impact on individuals than other types of self-led exercise. Another article I looked at was, Exercise as a Treatment for Depression in Elders, by Carol Palmer. This study reports “Increasing physical activity markedly reduces depressive symptoms and is a safe adjunct or alternative to medication therapy”. This study goes on to state that “Physical activity should be recommended to patients of all ages”. These studies show that exercise can greatly reduce depressive symptoms and creates an alternative treatment option for those struggling with depression. It is important for people to try a range of treatments in order to find an option that is best suited for the individual. As stated by Palmer exercise can be used along with other treatments for depression.

The point of this blog is not to tell people that exercise will cure your depression or that people on medication for depression should stop taking it and simply exercise. The point of this blog is to help make people aware that exercise has a huge impact on our mental wellness and should be reinforced as an important part of staying healthy not just physically but mentally as well.


Pearson, Caryn, Teresa Janz and Jennifer Ali. 2013. “Mental and substance use disorders in Canada” Health at a Glance. September. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-624-X.

Schuch, F. B., Vancampfort, D., Richards, J., Rosenbaum, S., Ward, P. B., & Stubbs, B. (June 01, 2016). Exercise as a treatment for depression: A meta-analysis adjusting for publication bias. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 77, 42-51.

Palmer, C. (February 01, 2005). Exercise as a treatment for depression in elders. Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, 17, 2, 60-66.



Fit Is A Female Problem

By Kelsie P.

In today’s society, women are still facing a number of injustices, including treatment within the fitness industry. ‘Fit’ women are painted to have slim figures, doused with makeup and their hair done just so, with little to no clothing on. Although this may be the norm for some, for many active women this depiction has no relation to their personal experience. Women are told to be skinny, but not TOO skinny – to work on muscle tone, but don’t become TOO bulky – be strong, but NOT STRONGER than the MEN – and numerous other contradictory idealisms set out by the media. Ladies face inequality not only in the expectations of their physiques and physical abilities, but in the funding, sponsorship and coverage of professional women athletes/teams. The struggle to find a professional women’s match or competition is endless, and if you do happen to stumble upon the rare channel providing the airtime, you can be certain the athlete’s competing are being paid a small fraction of their male counterparts’ salary.

CrossFit is constantly under scrutiny in the media about one thing or another. Amongst the hate and ‘short comings’ people love to find about the sport, the positive promotion of strong women and gender equality tends to become lost. CrossFit exemplifies the respect and proper treatment that should be given to women in sport and how competitions should be carried out, considering the time we live in.

CrossFit embraces the saying ‘strong is beautiful’ to the fullest. Marketing around females in the sport, both professional and amateur, focus on the abilities of the athletes as opposed to their overall aesthetic. Unfortunately, due to the negative conditioning thrust upon females at a young age, women are constantly underestimating what they can achieve physically. In this sport, there is no fear of women becoming ‘too strong’ and are encouraged to explore the lengths to which their bodies can carry them. Instead of promoting what a women looks like, CrossFit takes the angle of ‘look at what this body can do’. Sure, confidence can stem from how a person perceives their attractiveness, but confidence through achieving something through hard work and perseverance is that much more meaningful. An ‘ideal body’ may not be able to do a muscle up or snatch 130 pounds, but a strong, confident and healthy woman can. Once a woman buys into the idea that their bodies aren’t limited to vanity, they become vessels for unlimited fitness potential. They become less concerned with obtaining a certain shape, and more concerned with becoming as fit as they can be. (How CrossFit Might Be Promoting Gender Equality, 2015) Women CrossFit athletes, who are sponsored by companies in addition to CrossFit HQ, like Nike and Reebok, are often depicted doing sports specific movements and showing off their muscles. When these female athletes are interviewed, the focus of the questions rarely strays from the scope of the sport, leaving questions about relationships and clothing preferences left behind.

CrossFit doesn’t adhere to norms that have been established in the sporting world. CrossFit is a considerably new sport, gaining popularity by the day, meaning it has a clean slate to promote equality and turn their cheek to sexist ways. This can be shown as a primary example through the proceedings of the CrossFit games. This past July, the 10th annual CrossFit Games took place in Carson, California and displayed numerous efforts and aspects of gender impartiality throughout. In this competition, both mens’ and womens’ events were given equal broadcast airtime. Both genders, in the individual event, were awarded the same amount of prize money for the ‘Fittest Man on Earth’ and ‘Fittest Woman on Earth’; as well as those placing within the top 10 respectively (amount decreasing with position). Men and women were challenged with the exact same workouts and got to compete within the same arena, in front of well-mixed crowd. In the team event, each team consisted of 2 men and 2 women joining forces to compete co-ed. Additionally, the event commenters, media team, judges and coaches involved a proportionately blended population of both genders. (Is CrossFit Games Coverage Sexist?, 2013) The examples explored above are virtually unheard of in the sports broadcast/organizational industry outside of the up and coming sport of CrossFit.

Katrin Davidsdottir, ‘Fittest Woman on Earth’ for the consecutive 2015/2016 CrossFit Games, perfectly summarizes what the sport of CrossFit is about through saying,

In CrossFit, both men and women are told they can do anything. You want to achieve a muscle up? You can. You want to set a personal record with your back squats? Go for it. It doesn’t matter what gender you are, it matters what you’re made of. We’re all athletes competing in the same sport, with the same goal: To become stronger, healthier and better people.” (Davidsdottir, 2016)

CrossFit is a sport where women and men are revered equally and females are valued for their ability, not appearance. The sporting world, as well as the professional/everyday world, should take lead from CrossFit and learn what it means to eliminate discrimination and promote women in a positive way.


Davidsdottir, K. (2016, April 6). What CrossFit Can Teach Pro Sports About Gender
Equality. Retrieved January 30, 2017, from

How CrossFit Might Be Promoting Gender Equality. (2015, August 05). Retrieved
January 30, 2017, from

Is CrossFit Games Coverage Sexist? (2013, July 31). Retrieved January 30, 2017,




A Man’s Territory: The Gym

By Jessica D.

By now, many know the health benefits associated with being physically active: avoiding heart disease, depression, obesity, diabetes, and the list goes on. Exercise participation and barriers to physical activity have been widely researched for many decades. Some of the most commonly reported barriers to physical activity include lack of time, lack of enjoyment, lack of social support and lack of past exercise behavior (Trost et al., 2002). However, are we neglecting the fact that intimidation exhibited by male counterparts in a gym environment may account for a large quota of female dropout in physical activity?

The Health Survey for England (Health and Social Care Information Centre, 2011) reported that only 29% of the UK women were achieving recommended levels of physical activity compared to 39% of males. In a study done by Pridgeon and Grogan (2012) whom observed exercise adherence and dropout, all non-adheres were conscious of the presence of others while exercising at the gym. Moreover, when it comes to the way girls dress or the weight they are going to add while doing their bench press at the gym, the presence of males plays a highly influential role.

Traditional public perceptions of a male are expected to be strong, independent, and athletic, whereas females are deemed to be the “weaker sex”. When these gender norms are violated either at the gym or in a sport context, it is common for labels to be given (i.e. “she must be a lesbian”). For this reason, females are left feeling vulnerable in a gym setting, thus, discouraging them from pushing themselves to become in great physical condition, and to most certainly not exceed the condition of their male counterparts.

Although I am no stranger to the gym, the thought of working out next to sweaty guys huffing, puffing, and grunting as they try to bench press hundreds of pounds always makes me feel a little uncomfortable. Take the weight room at the Currie Centre, for example. It has become the norm for women to breeze past the room simply because of the male dominated environment that has been created. For many years, I did the exact same thing myself. I felt as though the glares and stares I was receiving while lifting, at times, as much weight as some of the men in the room were making me feel as though I did not belong in that space. However, being a fitness enthusiast, and being well aware of the health benefits associated with adhering to a weight-training program, I did not let the intimidation of male bodies in the room drive me away. I really enjoyed this post “8 Reasons Why You Should Lift Heavier Weights” : number 7 which caught my eye in particular, mentions how “you’ll feel empowered” and that lifting weights is associated with a boost in self-esteem.

While both men and women work out in contemporary gyms, popular conceptions of the gym as a masculine institution continue. That being said, many alternatives need to be considered for women who do not adhere to gym participation as the result of male intimidation. Women-only gyms, exercising partners, and comfortable clothing, to name a few, are good examples of ways to boost a women’s self-esteem and self-efficacy while at the gym. In the end, shouldn’t we be working towards creating a more accepting gym environment? Don’t women have every right to flaunt their muscly arms and toned legs too?


Trost, S.G., et al., 2002. Correlates of adults’ participation in physical activity: review and update. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 34 (12), 1996–2001. doi: 10.1097/ 00005768–200212000–00020.

Health and Social Care Information Centre 2011. Health Survey for England – 2008: physical activity and fitness. Available from: [Accessed January 2011].

Pridgeon, L., & Grogan, S. (2012). Understanding exercise adherence and dropout: an interpretative phenomenological analysis of men and women’s accounts of gym attendance and non-attendance. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 4(3), 382-399.