Background: Obesity, which is a major health issue in Australia, is often associated with low levels of physical activity (PA). In combination, obesity and low PA contribute to the development and persistence of chronic health conditions, such as Type 2 diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, hypertension, obstructive sleep apnea, depression, cancer, asthma and degenerative joint problems. This study aimed to explore the perceived barriers and facilitators for PA in obese adults before bariatric surgery.
Methods: Nineteen obese adults (15 females; aged 42 ± 12years, weight 119 ± 20kg and Body Mass Index: 42 ± 7kg·m-2) participated in a 1-1 interview before undergoing bariatric surgery. Participants were asked open-ended questions about the perceived barriers, facilitators and motivators for PA. Interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Transcriptions were analysed using thematic analysis, a widely used method for qualitative data analysis, to provide a rich and detailed account of the data. To ensure the credibility of findings and interpretations, the themes were validated by a second member of the research team.
Findings: The main themes related to barriers to PA were perception of being overweight, the physical consequences of obesity (i.e. joint pain), lack of motivation, and self-presentational concerns (i.e. embarrassment due to body image). Key themes identified as facilitators were the idea of weight loss, social support and company to exercise. Participants discussed several different types of motivations to engage in PA, including weight control, enhanced body image, health benefits, and coping with stress.
Conclusion: The main perceived barriers for PA in obese adults were related to excess weight and its consequences. The perceived facilitators and motivators for PA were mainly related to extrinsic factors, with weight control more frequently reported than perceived health benefits of PA. These suggest a lack of intrinsic motivation factors, such as enjoyment of PA, in this population.