Inequalities in young-people’s physical activity: how can school-based interventions make more of a difference?

Gareth Wiltshire

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


As social inequalities continue to significantly impact public health, physical inactivity in low socio-economic groups has become a particular concern. In recent years, children and young people have been targeted for physical activity promotion and schools have been positioned as important sites for intervention. Amidst a growing interest in conceptualising health behaviours as ‘social practices’ situated within cultural and material contexts, this presentation highlights how ethnographic research can help reveal the meaning and experience of school-based physical activity for young people as it relates to socio-economic status. Drawing on qualitative research from a range of methods (ethnography, visual methods, walking interviews and focus groups) from both primary and secondary schools, it is argued that socio-economic status provides important social conditions through which physical (in)activity is realised. Not only is it possible to see how young people in different socio-economic circumstances engage in different kinds of physically activity practices, but also that physical activity is understood and experienced in different ways. This raises concerns over the potential incommensurability between low socio-economic status pupils’ dispositions and the school contexts in which much health promotion is implemented. Data also highlight the complex interplay between pupils, school staff, parents and the physical environment in which physical activity is practised suggesting that interventions and policies aimed at reducing inequalities might benefit from being designed to reflect and accommodate these complexities. In seeking ways that this may be achieved in practice, the presentation concludes with findings from the School Culture Intervention Project pilot study
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAcceptance date - 2018
Event7th International Society for Physical Activity and Health Congress - London, UK United Kingdom
Duration: 15 Oct 201817 Oct 2018


Conference7th International Society for Physical Activity and Health Congress
Abbreviated titleISPAH
Country/TerritoryUK United Kingdom
Internet address


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