South Australian rural women’s perspectives and experiences of being physically active – different landscapes, shared experiences?

Miss Jessica Muller1, Associate Professor Gaynor Parfitt1, Dr Katja Siefken1, Associate Professor James Dollman1

1Health Sciences Division, University Of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia


Background: We know non-communicable disease (NCD) rates are highest for those living outside major cities in Australia and lifestyle behaviours such as participating in adequate physical activity are key to reducing NCD risk factors. But more specifically, why is it that rural women are less likely to participate in physical activity? And what needs to change to engage them in the sustained uptake of physical activity?

Purpose: Previous research suggests a lack of social support within the home environment and discomfort experienced within exercise environments can limit women’s participation in physical activity. Interestingly, no such patterns were identified among men. Further research is required to understand the social conditions that support or inhibit internalisation and integration of extrinsically motivated behaviours amongst rural Australian women in relation to the adoption and maintenance of habitual physical activity.

Method: Qualitative descriptive methodology underpinned by phenomenological and feminist approaches has been applied to gain a rich description of the lived experiences of women within two diverse rural South Australian contexts. Combined with a maximum variation sampling strategy, semi-structured interviews were conducted and prepared for thematic analysis.

Results: Thematic analysis is currently in progress and will be finalised by 30 July 2018.

Conclusion: This study contributes to our understanding of the social conditions and influences that facilitate or inhibit physical activity behaviour amongst rural women and concomitantly provides direction for local strategic planning. Importantly, it validates and contextualises the unique experiences specific to the changing landscapes in which rural South Australian women reside.


Jessica is a fourth year occupational therapy honours student studying a the University of South Australia. Jessica has actively sought opportunities throughout her undergraduate degree to gain experience within the rural health sector and is passionate about applying her occupational therapy skill set to meaningfully engage with individuals and communities to further understand and work towards addressing determinants of health.

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