How Societal Forces of Change Are Transforming Youth Physical Activity Promotion in North America

J Phys Act Health. 2023 Oct 9;20(12):1069-1077. doi: 10.1123/jpah.2023-0167. Print 2023 Dec 1.


Background: Climate change, increasing recognition of institutionalized discrimination, and the COVID-19 pandemic are large-scale, societal events (ie, forces of change) that affect the timing, settings, and modes of youth physical activity. Despite the impact that forces of change have on youth physical activity and physical activity environments, few studies consider how they affect physical activity promotion.

Methods: The authors use 2 established frameworks, the ecological model of physical activity and the youth physical activity timing, how, and setting framework, to highlight changes in physical activity patterns of youth in North America that have resulted from contemporary forces of change.

Results: North American countries-Canada, Mexico, and the United States-have faced similar but contextually different challenges for promoting physical activity in response to climate change, increasing recognition of institutionalized discrimination, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Innovative applications of implementation science, digital health technologies, and community-based participatory research methodologies may be practical for increasing and sustaining youth physical activity in response to these forces of change.

Conclusions: Thoughtful synthesis of existing physical activity frameworks can help to guide the design and evaluation of new and existing physical activity initiatives. Researchers, practitioners, and policymakers are encouraged to carefully consider the intended and unintended consequences of actions designed to respond to forces of change.

Keywords: adolescents; children; exercise; health inequities; social determinants of health.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • COVID-19* / prevention & control
  • Canada
  • Exercise*
  • Health Promotion / methods
  • Humans
  • North America
  • Pandemics / prevention & control