Why aren’t boys participating in gym?

Findings from Western University have led researchers to ask questions about adolescent body image issues that are increasingly being traced to unhealthy behaviors and ultimately affecting adolescent male youth’s desire to participate or avoid exercise.

Experts in gender studies and physical education will meet with the London community at Palasad (777 Adelaide Street North) at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 13 to address how adolescent boys struggle with body image issues. Parents, students, teachers, school board members and friends are welcome to explore how some boys manage physical education classes that discourage participation.

The conversation about masculinity and body image, which is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Gender and Health, will be facilitated by Michael Kehler from Western’s Faculty of Education and his research collaborator Michael Atkinson from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education. Along with moderator Jennifer Irwin of Western’s Faculty of Health Sciences, these experts will engage participants in a dialogue that addresses fears and body perceptions not as something unusual or rare, but as something that has been purposefully avoided and unspoken amongst men.

The informal style of CIHR’s Café Scientifique events promotes open, community-based discussion about health-related issues of interest to the general public.
By hosting the event in an accessible and public location, organizers hope that the community will be encouraged to join the conversation on how current practices in physical education may discourage boys’ participation.

“We want to acknowledge the real struggle that some boys have in their physical education and to support the parents of the kids who currently feel unsafe in their gym classes and locker rooms,” explains Kehler.

“The CIHR Institute of Gender and Health is pleased to support this activity that shares research about constructions of masculinity and their influences on boys’ well-being,” says Dr. Joy Johnson, Scientific Director of CIHR’s Institute of Gender and Health. “We hope this café will foster discussion about how we can be sensitive to issues of boys’ body image with the goal of improving their health.”

Organizers are sharing news of the event on Facebook and Twitter in order to reach out as widely as possible about an issue that affects boys so profoundly.

To access the Facebook event, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/262752783791479/
For more information on the CIHR’s Café Scientifique initiative, see https://www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca/e/34951.html