Understanding gender norms, nutrition, and physical activity in adolescent girls: a scoping review

Public health is currently focused on childhood obesity, and the associated behaviors of physical activity and nutrition. Canadian youth are insufficiently active and do not meet nutritional guidelines. This is of particular concern for adolescent girls, as they are less active than boys, become less active as they age, and engage in unhealthy weight control behaviors. The purpose of this review is to determine what is known from the existing literature about how gender norms are understood in relation to the health-related behaviors of PA and nutrition in young girls. This scoping review follows the framework of Arksey and O?Malley, involving defining a research question, study identification and selection, charting, interpretation, summarizing, and reporting. In total, 28 documents are reviewed, and characteristics are summarized quantitatively and qualitatively. Five major themes are identified: (1) Girls? relationships with PA are complex and require negotiating gender roles, (2) the literature focuses on dieting rather than nutrition, (3) appearance and perceptions influence behaviors, (4) ?body? focused discourse is significant to girls? experiences, and (5) social influences, institutions, and environments are influential and may offer opportunity for future research and action. Gaps in the literature are identified and discussed. It is concluded that young girls? activity and nutrition is affected by gender norms and feminine ideals through complex negotiations, perceptions, body-centered discourse, and societal influences.

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