Journal of Medical Systems

, Volume 35, Issue 5, pp 1225–1242 | Cite as

Barriers to Physical Activity: A Study of Self-Revelation in an Online Community

  • Tammy Toscos
  • Sunny Consolvo
  • David W. McDonald
Original Paper


The importance of regular physical activity to overall health has been well established, yet adults in the United States are leading increasingly sedentary lives. Research suggests that lowering perceived barriers to exercise is an effective strategy for encouraging physical activity. This article describes the top barriers that emerged from a qualitative analysis of message board traffic from a three-month healthy lifestyle intervention that promoted physical activity and healthy eating. The findings further elaborate known barriers to physical activity—two of which are not reported as key barriers in prior research—and illustrate the value of a grounded approach to studying health and fitness behaviors. Based on our analysis, we identify design considerations for technologies that encourage and support physical activity. Understanding the needs of a population is a critical step in the design process, and this paper offers unique insights for those working in this growing domain.


Barriers to physical activity Fitness Health Message boards Web-based discussion forums Virtual community 



We would like to thank Intel Labs Seattle for supporting this research. We would also like to extend a special thanks to Hooria Bittlingmayer, Jeff Stein, Wanda Pratt, and Steve Gribble.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tammy Toscos
    • 1
  • Sunny Consolvo
    • 2
  • David W. McDonald
    • 3
  1. 1.School of InformaticsIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA
  2. 2.Intel Labs SeattleSeattleUSA
  3. 3.The Information SchoolUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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