Young adult males’ motivators and perceived barriers towards eating healthily and being active: a qualitative study

There is a lack of understanding of young men’s perspectives in obesity-related research. This study aims to: (1) identify young men’s perceived motivators and barriers in adopting healthy eating and physical activity behaviours, and (2) explore any differences in responses by weight status categories.
Ten focus groups (32-63 minutes; 3-9 participants per group) were conducted with 61 young men (BMI: 25.3 ± 5.1 kg/m
, aged: 18-25 years) from the Hunter region, New South Wales, Australia. There were 35 (57.4 %) healthy weight men and 26 (42.6 %) overweight/ obese men. Three groups were with healthy weight participants, three with overweight/obese participants and four with mixed-BMI participants. Sessions were audio-recorded and transcribed. Data analysis was conducted by an independent researcher using NVIVO10.
Motivators for healthy eating grouped into four themes: physical health (e.g. to live longer), sport or performance (e.g. to support their sporting goals), physical appearance (e.g. sexual attractiveness) and social influences (e.g. societal expectations to eat healthy), while key motivators for physical activity were: physical appearance (e.g. sexual attractiveness), social inclusion (e.g. making friends), physical and mental health (e.g. relieve stress) and improvements for sport or performance (e.g. improve fitness). Themes for key barriers to eating healthy were: intrinsic (e.g. perceived effort to adopt healthy eating), logistic (e.g. cost), and social factors (e.g. peer influence), while busy lifestyles (e.g. lack of time), logistic (e.g. cost), cognitive-emotional (e.g. feelings of inferiority) and social factors (e.g. family upbringing) were key barriers for physical activity. Responses varied little by BMI status.
This research emphasises the importance of consulting young men when developing healthy lifestyle programs that aim to promote healthy eating and physical activity in young men. Future research is needed to identify the most effective ways to address their motivators and barriers in intervention research.

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