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25.06.2020 | Original Paper | Ausgabe 4/2020

The Journal of Primary Prevention 4/2020

Exploring Supports and Barriers to Physical Activity in Catholic Priests

The Journal of Primary Prevention > Ausgabe 4/2020
Nathan A. Chiarlitti, Angela M. Kolen
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Although physical activity has been examined in many different populations, little is known about the physical activity of religious leaders. Religious leaders have considerable demands on their time and energy resulting in fewer opportunities for self-care, including participating in regular physical activity. The purpose of our study was to better understand the role of physical activity in Roman Catholic priests and in particular, the supports and barriers they face. We conducted one-on-one semi-structured interviews with eight priests regarding their perceived motivators and impediments to physical activity. Following a socioecological framework, we noted two common themes from the priests’ interviews regarding their lived experiences. Our first theme included intra-individual characteristics such as personal factors including personality, knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs regarding physical activity. Our second theme contained extra-individual factors such as environmental influences including community involvement, accessible resources, and weather determinants. Both themes reflected supports and barriers to the priests’ physical activity. Overall, our results indicated that although Roman Catholic priests experience unique barriers to physical activity related to their social identity, similar to other men of the same age, they are also affected by common factors that support or prohibit engagement in physical activity. The priests shared that health benefits and being physically active with others were their main supports, while busy work schedules, lack of knowledge, and poor health were barriers to their physical activity participation. These results suggest physical activity programming should be considered as part of seminary education, in particular, as a method of proactively taking care of physical and mental health so priests can manage the persistent and consistent demands made upon them. Further, once working as priests, physical activity programs should involve individualized approaches that include personal interests, and available resources while recognizing personal, social, and environmental barriers.

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