Background: Previous research has sought to uncover various behavior factors that contribute to childhood physical activity, but have primarily relied on quantitative methods or within the context of schools. Summer day camps offered potential for increasing activity of youth, but research is required to determine how best to convert camp activity into outreach interventions.

Methods: The University of Georgia Institutional Review Board (IRB) approved all methods and procedures prior to the start of the study (STUDY00004692, MOD00005513). A total of 112 campers ages 9-13 participated in the data collection. This research used semi-structured interviews, surveys, and observations to explore campers’ experiences with organized physical activity. Data was collected over four of the six weeks at a Georgia 4-H Camp at Rock Eagle during the summer session in 2017. This research used semi-structured interviews, surveys, and observations to explore overall camp experience, familial activities, and previous activity habits. This pilot study sought to identify and understand barriers and facilitators to organized physical activity in summer campers using their own narratives.

Results: The findings supported previously documented barriers such as perceived safety, peer influence, and environment as well as uncovering new barriers such as gender dynamics, bullying, and family participation in physical activity. Our survey indicated that “bad sportsmanship” was the most commonly reported barrier (23.6 %) with “boring” activity as the second highest (21.8%) obstacle. Conversely, interaction may facilitate activity as 39.8% of survey respondents noted “that the people playing the game” make it enjoyable. Typical family life also emerged as both a facilitator and a barrier to participation. Shared family interest in games emerged as a facilitator, while parents’ busy schedules and sedentary lifestyle were reported as barriers.

Conclusions: These findings offer insight into conducting physical outreach interventions in settings as 4-H camps, Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA, Church camps and even day camps operated by non-profit organizations. Future studies need to assess the generalizability of these findings to other 4-H camps and summer camps across the nation.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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