Evaluating weight inclusivity in physical activity: Environmental scans of virtual resources and physical spaces


Higher weight individuals report disproportionately lower rates of physical activity (PA) engagement and enjoyment due to the pervasiveness of weight stigma in PA contexts. Employing weight-inclusive strategies may improve PA outcomes in this population, though little is known about the application of weight-inclusivity in real-world PA contexts. Thus, two environmental scan studies were conducted with the aims of evaluating the extent to which physical activity spaces aligned with weight-inclusive principles. In study 1, researchers examined and evaluated virtual weight-inclusive PA resources (n =80), that offered educational material (40.0%) and/or PA provision (76.3%). Virtual resources generally adhered to weight-inclusive principles by showcasing diversity in body size (67.2%), using weight inclusive language (75.4%), and centering enjoyable and attuned PA (82.0%), though still included some weight-normative content (8.2%). In study 2, in partnership with Southwestern Ontario YMCA, researchers applied a purpose-made assessment tool to appraise the extent to which YMCA facilities (n = 16) were inclusive for higher-weight-individuals. Upon assessment of physical spaces and in-person fitness classes, researchers found that while class content was weight-neutral, instructor offered few modifications to accommodate diverse-bodied individuals, and generally did not center user enjoyment or attuned PA. Promotional material available in YMCA spaces included weight-normative content and displayed predominantly ‘thin’ and ‘fit’ bodies. Collectively, the availability of virtual and in-person PA provisions that are non-stigmatizing and aligned with weight-inclusive principles remains limited. There is a need for more accessible PA resources that are created for higher-weight individuals to improve the opportunities and quality of PA experiences.