Research has shown that youth with low levels of fitness or little interest in organized sports and traditional physical education are more likely to participate in noncompetitive outdoor physical activity. However, little is known about what influences youths’ decisions to participate in these activities. This study examined rural young adolescents’ experiences of participating in noncompetitive outdoor physical activity. In depth qualitative interviews were conducted with young adolescents aged 11-13 years (N = 24) from one rural middle school to elicit detailed descriptions of experiences of participation in outdoor physical activities. Interview transcripts were analyzed inductively and emergent themes related to young adolescents’ participation in outdoor, noncompetitive physical activity were identified. Twelve themes were categorized as either respondents’ relationship with the outdoors, activity preferences, and external conditions that determine participation. The results of the study indicate the presence of a complex dynamic relationship of social and physical environmental factors influencing young adolescents’ participation in outdoor activities. These include parental and peer influence, personal choice and enjoyment, spending time outdoors, appreciation for nature, availability of equipment, and previous experiences of participation. More research is needed to corroborate the results of the study and to better understand youths’ preferences for noncompetitive versus competitive physical activity.


Motivation, Phenomenological Interviewing, Physical Activity, Rural, Symbolic Interactionism, Young Adolescents

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
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