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Understanding the Gender Gap in Physical Literacy

There is a rising public health concern surrounding the health, fitness, and physical activity levels of children and youth. Research has shown that as girls and boys get older and move through adolescence there tends to be a drop in physical activity. As well, when comparing boys to girls in this age range, girls tend to feel less confident about their ability to engage in physical activity. One reason for these findings could relate to physical literacy. Physical literacy involves confidence, competence, knowledge and motivation to take part in physical activity.

In this study, we will engage with after school programs in Ontario to understand physical literacy levels of girls and boys, and also get their impressions of what could be done to support girls to feel more confident in their abilities. Finally, we will make recommendations and test whether these make a difference in physical literacy scores in peri-adolescent children. A summary of these 3 phases of work is noted below:

Phase 1 –Trained assessors will complete the PLAYFun Tool to assess physical literacy of all children in the after school programs.

Phase 2 – All children from Phase 1 will be invited to take part in focus groups using a modified persona-scenario method. Groups will start with a description of a child (persona) who is at a similar physical literacy level as the participants in the group. The persona will be used to spark discussion about physical activity engagement of boys and girls as well as suggestions to help improve the confidence of girls. All children will be asked to wear a pedometer, which measures the number of steps they take, for 5 days.

Phase 3 – A randomized controlled design will be used where 3-5 after school programs will receive recommendations to support girls’ participation in physical activity and another 3-5 sites will use their usual programming. PLAYFun assessments will take place at the beginning and end of the study time, and program fidelity checks will also take place over the 12-week duration of the program.


Principal Investigator

Partner Organizations

    • McMaster University Department of Family Medicine
    • David Braley Health Sciences Centre
    • 100 Main Street West, 6th Floor
    • Hamilton, ON L8P 1H6
    • Map / Directions