Perceived psychological, cultural, and environmental barriers to sport in children living in urban and non-urban settings in the Midlands, Portugal



Faced with the high number of children who do not meet the physical activity guidelines, the identification of possible associated factors is essential. This study aims to identify what motivates and constraints children to engage in physical activities, and to observe how gender and urbanization may predict the perception of those barriers.


A cross-sectional study in 793 children (51.3% girls) aged 6–10 years was carried in an urban and non-urban setting. Children were asked to self-report sport barriers. Multivariate logistic regression models were used to observe association of barriers with gender and place of residence.


Barriers like “I am not good at sports”, “I do not like to be active”, and “I am not interest in pursuing a career related to sport” were more prevalent in girls than in boys. Urban children had higher odds than their non-urban peers of reporting that they do not watch women’s sport on television, and also lack of time, facilities nearby and weather as barriers to engage in sport. However, non-urban children said that their family engages in less physical activities with them compared to urban children.


Differences according to the gender were visible in psychological barriers, with girls being less motivated to be physically active. Urban children are at a greater risk of not being sufficiently active since they reported more physical and organizational barriers than non-urban ones. Different barriers, according to children’s gender and urbanization, should be considered in future strategies to promote physical activity.

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The authors specially thank the families and children for their participation in the study, and to the school for their helpful cooperation. This work was supported by Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT) under Grant SFRH/BD/90737/2012.

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Correspondence to Daniela Rodrigues.

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Research involving human participants—ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Rodrigues, D., Padez, C. & Machado-Rodrigues, A.M. Perceived psychological, cultural, and environmental barriers to sport in children living in urban and non-urban settings in the Midlands, Portugal. Sport Sci Health 13, 565–571 (2017).

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  • Children
  • Sport
  • Perceived barriers
  • Risk factors
  • Urbanization
  • Portugal