A Systematic Scoping Review of Engagement in Physical Activity Among LGBTQ+ Adults

J Phys Act Health. 2018 Mar 1;15(3):226-232. doi: 10.1123/jpah.2017-0292. Epub 2017 Dec 4.


Background: LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, etc) persons are subject to elevated rates of chronic diseases and health concerns that can be addressed through regular participation in physical activity. However, LGBTQ+ adults experience unique challenges to engaging in physical activity. Subsequently, the aim of this study is to describe the dominant narratives related to the complex intersection of sexual orientation, gender identity, and physical activity.

Methods: A systematic search and scoping review of existing literature was conducted in June 2016. Studies were identified by searching 9 electronic databases. Data were then extracted, summarized, and organized by LGBTQ+ subgroups. Conceptual maps of prominent narratives were created.

Results: Separate narratives were identified for sexual minority men and women. The dominant trend for sexual minority men was increased physical activity levels, often motivated by a perceived body ideal of being thin and/or muscular. The dominant trend for sexual minority women was decreased physical activity levels, predicated on a social norm that emphasizes bodily acceptance.

Conclusions: Sexual orientation affects engagement in physical activity differentially by gender. Our findings suggest that physical activity interventions should be targeted to unique subgroups of the LGBTQ+ population.

Keywords: exercise; fitness; gender; public health.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities / psychology
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult