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


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.


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.