How can mass participation physical activity events engage low-active people? A qualitative study

J Phys Act Health. 2013 Aug;10(6):900-9. doi: 10.1123/jpah.10.6.900. Epub 2012 Oct 9.


Background: Regular, moderate physical activity reduces the risk of mortality and morbidity; however increasing the physical activity levels of less active people is a public health challenge. This study explores the potential of mass participation physical activity events to engage less active people, through analyzing the accounts of participants in 2 events who identified themselves as low-active before entering.

Methods: Seven participants in a sponsored run and 7 in a sponsored walk were interviewed and transcripts were analyzed using grounded theory techniques.

Results: Participants had positive experiences encapsulated in 3 categories: Performing (physical completion of the event culminating in a sense of achievement); Relating (enjoying relationships); Soaking up the Atmosphere (enjoying the event ambience). The way in which these categories were manifested was affected by the event context.

Conclusions: Mass participation events have potential to engage low-active people. The impact of participation resonated with factors that are positively associated with physical activity in other settings, and event characteristics matched key criteria for attracting low-active groups identified through social marketing research. Suggestions are given for how to capitalize on the findings for health promotion.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anniversaries and Special Events*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Motor Activity*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Running
  • Social Marketing
  • United Kingdom
  • Walking
  • Young Adult