How Can Physical Inactivity in Girls Be Explained? A Socioecological Study in Public, Subsidized, and Private Schools

Rodrigo Soto-Lagos, Carolina Cortes-Varas, Solange Freire-Arancibia, María Alejandra Energici, Brent McDonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


In the last few years, the World Health Organization has highlighted that physical inactivity is a global issue affecting women to a greater extent than men. Faced with this, different nation states have developed public policies to reduce physical inactivity at school; however, the biomedical and individualistic models used have generated widespread criticism, as figures remain the same. In the context of failed interventions on increasing levels of physical activity, this study utilizes a socioecological model to analyze and understand how physical inactivity is reproduced in girls in the Chilean education system. A qualitative study was implemented, as it allows a focus on the entailed meanings, context, and processes. Active semi-structured interviews were conducted with 40 groups comprising headmasters, teachers, non-teachers, students, and families. The results show that physical inactivity is linked to factors that go beyond the individualistic model; that is, consideration must include intrapersonal, interpersonal, organizational, community, and public policy dimensions. Furthermore, gender stereotypes gain relevance in physical education classes, in addition to friendships and family, teaching, and administrative work, access to safe play areas, use of spaces, and widespread cultural factors associated with men and women. This study concludes that the assessed gender differences should be approached from a pedagogical perspective beyond common sense, further reporting that the individualized explanation for physical inactivity is irrelevant to answer why women are more inactive than men.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9304
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • gender
  • girls
  • physical activities
  • physical education
  • physical inactivity
  • public policies
  • socioecological model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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