Physical activity in the mass media: an audience perspective

Benjamin John Smith, Catriona M F Bonfiglioli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Physical activity s role in promoting health is highlighted in public health campaigns, news and current affairs, reality television and other programs. An investigation of audience exposure, beliefs and reactions to media portrayals of physical activity offers insights into the salience and influence of this communication. An audience reception study was conducted involving in-depth interviews with 46 adults in New South Wales, Australia. The sample was stratified by gender, age group, area of residence and body mass index. Most respondents could only recall media coverage of physical activity with prompting. Television was the primary channel of exposure, with reality television the dominant source, followed by news programs and sports coverage. The messages most readily recalled were the health risks of inactivity, especially obesity, and the necessity of keeping active. Physical activity was regarded as a matter of personal volition, or for children, parental responsibility. Respondents believed that the media had given physical activity inadequate attention, focused too heavily on risks and not provided practical advice. In Australia, there is a need to counter the framing of physical activity by reality television, and engage the media to generate understanding of the socioecological determinants of inactivity. Physical activity campaigns should deliver positive and practical messages.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359 - 369
Number of pages11
JournalHealth Education Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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