What roles does physical activity play following the death of a parent as a young person? A qualitative investigation

Jane Williams, Neil Howlett, Gillian W. Shorter, Julia K. Zakrzewski-Fruer, Angel Marie Chater

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Physical activity benefits physical and mental health. However, limited research investigates if physical activity can improve outcomes from the grieving process following the death of a parent.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 individuals (n = 8 female; age M = 31.2 years), who had experienced the death of a parent when they were aged between 10-24 years old, using retrospective recall. Data were analysed inductively using thematic analysis.

Results: Six themes were identified. Physical activity was seen as; 1) ‘Therapeutic’; providing an 2) ‘Emotional Outlet’ and created a strong sense of 3) ‘Social Support’. Alongside it 4) ‘Builds Confidence’, and led to 5) ‘Finding Yourself’ and 6) ‘Improved Health’ (physical and psychological).

Conclusion: Physical activity has the potential to provide positive experiences following a parental bereavement. It can provide a sense of freedom and was seen to alleviate grief outcomes, build resilience, enable social support and create a stronger sense of self. Bereavement support services for young people who have experienced death of a parent should consider physical activity as a viable intervention to support the grieving process.
Original languageEnglish
Article number210
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2023


  • physical activity
  • behaviour change
  • exercise
  • Parental bereavement
  • death
  • grief
  • social support
  • resilience


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