A qualitative study exploring barriers and facilitators to physical activity experienced by 18 to 35 year olds living in Sheffield’s most deprived areas

Talk Code: 
Rachel Crothers


Physical activity (PA) can help prevent and manage many noncommunicable diseases and their risk factors. Health inequalities persist in England; those in lowest socioeconomic groups are most likely to be inactive. Activity in young adulthood can predict engagement with PA in later life. This study examines influences on PA in deprived young adult populations.


This qualitative study used semi-structured interviews with health trainers (HTs) and lay participants (LPs), recruited from the most deprived quintile nationally based on Index of Multiple Deprivation scores. HTs were recruited from a community development charity and LPs through community organisations and exercise sessions. Topic guides were derived from literature review and public involvement group findings. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.


One LP and two HTs were recruited before recruitment ceased due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Four themes which influence PA behaviours were common to all interviews: 1) Individual internal factors: health, self-confidence and motivation; 2) Lifestyle and personal circumstances: finances, commitments and daily routine; 3) Local environmental factors: crime and availability of comfortable environments for PA; and 4) Local neighbourhood facilities: availability and cost of PA opportunities. Both HTs highlighted a fifth theme, outlining the HT role in encouraging client motivation. PA uptake in this population appears affected by barriers and facilitators at individual and neighbourhood level, findings concordant with existing literature.


Lack of data limits ability to draw conclusions from this study. PA motivation appears low in deprived areas as PA is unable to be prioritised around family and financial commitments. PA opportunities may have limited availability and accessibility in these areas. Implementing community regeneration schemes, subsidising exercise costs and expanding HT services may improve PA uptake among deprived young adults. However, this important area requires further research before recommendations can be formed.


Presenting author:

  • Rachel Crothers


  • Dr Helen Twohig
    • Affiliation: Academic Unit of Primary Medical Care, University of Sheffield Medical School
    • Email: h.twohig@sheffield.ac.uk
  • Dr Phillip Oliver