Adolescent Participation in Gymnasium Based Exercise Programs: Barriers and Opportunities

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Grikepelis, Luke A (2019) Adolescent Participation in Gymnasium Based Exercise Programs: Barriers and Opportunities. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


This thesis involves a study of adolescent participation in gymnasium based exercise programs (GBEPs) in Australia. It investigates the problematic nature of, and the influences on their low levels of participation. Special attention is given to the significance of gymnasiums as spaces for adolescent exercise participation, and—in the light of both the prevailing regulatory context and operations of the Exercise and Fitness Industry (EFI)—the capacity of gymnasium businesses and their workers to appropriately cater for this cohort. The study used a triangulated mixed-method research design, with data sourced from semi-structured telephone interviews, a structured online questionnaire, and documents relating to the operations and conduct of the EFI in Australia. Interviews were conducted with 16 informants, including a government minister, government and industry association executives, and senior managers from gymnasium businesses. Also from across Australia, were 44 parents and/or guardians of adolescent children who completed the questionnaire. The document analysis incorporated independent industry reports and government regulations relevant to the EFI and the context of this study. In particular, industry codes in four state and self-governing mainland territories, which were the main and generally enforceable regulations specific to the EFI in Australia, were examined. The study was framed by stakeholder theory, with the data situated in an analytical setting guided by regulation theory. The findings suggested that gymnasium businesses generally discriminated against adolescents through informal exclusion and restrictive policies on gymnasium based exercise program (GBEP) participation, and it was clear that this customer segment was not given the attention it deserved. In addition, most stakeholders believed that there was a need for better educated and suitably qualified gymnasium instructors and personal trainers, able to provide appropriate supervision, guidance and exercise instruction. Also demonstrated was strong support for external EFI regulation, including mandatory gymnasium business and instructor accreditation, with interview informants, in the main, believing that it would result in better quality and safer industry practices, offering quality assurance. While the findings showed that gymnasiums were mostly viewed as appropriate spaces for adolescent exercise participation, some stakeholders felt that the prevailing levels of regulation of the EFI, as well as its internal practices, were unable to deliver Australia’s adolescents with equitable access and appropriate levels of support to participate effectively in GBEPs. The findings were used to formulate a number of recommendations—predominantly for the EFI—with special attention to advancing the participation of adolescents in GBEPs across Australia. Accordingly, the thesis culminates in the analysis of policy options and strategic opportunities to increase their participation, whilst ensuring equal gymnasium access. This includes the nationwide introduction of external industry regulation, mandatory gymnasium business and instructor accreditation, and a gymnasium access requirement which provides all adolescents with the opportunity to participate in GBEPs. The ensuing recommendations are to support both adolescent and adult GBEP participants, improve enterprise and industry performance, and potentially contribute to building a healthier and more active Australian population.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1106 Human Movement and Sports Science
Historical > FOR Classification > 1504 Services
Current > Division/Research > College of Sports and Exercise Science
Keywords adolescents; gymnasium based exercise programs; physical inactivity; exercise and fitness industry; Australia; gymnasiums; service delivery; regulation
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