In light of the importance attributed to the presence of positive role models in promoting physical activity during adolescence, this study examined role models of adolescent girls and their influence on physical activity. Seven hundred and thirty two girls in Years 7 and 11 from metropolitan and non-metropolitan regions of Victoria, Australia, were surveyed regarding whether they had a role model (in general, not limited to sport), and if they did, the gender, age, type and sporting background of that individual. Participants were also asked about the amount of physical activity they did. Descriptive statistics and a series of generalised estimating equations, one-way ANOVAs and a chi-square analysis were conducted to analyse the data. The majority of participants nominated a family member, peer or celebrity sportsperson as their role model who was female, played sport and was less than 50 years of age. Non-metropolitan-based adolescent girls, and Year 11 adolescent girls, were more likely to select a role model who they knew played sport than metropolitan-based adolescent girls and Year 7 girls respectively. In the first two years of the study girls whose role models played sport were significantly more physically active than girls whose role models did not play sport. It is recommended that family members, peers and sports people are included as role models in programmes designed to increase physical activity.
Physical activity (PA) is important for lifelong health; however, participation is lower in rural compared with metropolitan areas and declines during adolescence, particularly for girls. It is likely that this decline is related to the number of life transitions that occur during adolescence. This qualitative study examined the views of active rural living girls regarding the factors affecting their sport and PA participation, using the socioecological model. Twenty-seven girls aged 16-17 from four schools participated in semi-structured focus group discussions. Content and thematic analysis was conducted from verbatim transcripts using NVivo. The girls enjoyed involvement in community club sport with friends and they reported living in communities where participation in sport was a major form of social interaction. However, the desire to succeed educationally was a critical factor affecting their participation in sport and PA and influenced their movement from structured club sport to more flexible, but socially isolated individual activities. It is recommended that future longitudinal research should track rural living adolescent females as they complete secondary school, in order to better understand the influence of educational priorities upon sport and PA participation and to identify practical strategies for both schools and community organizations to foster continuing participation throughout this crucial period of life transition.