Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Master of Arts




Pila, Eva


In adolescence, enrollment in Physical Education (PE) drastically drops in the transition from grade 9 to 10 – particularly for girls who disengage at higher rates than males after completing provincial PE curricular requirements. This is problematic since engagement in PE has the potential to shape young girls’ perceptions of movement, their bodies, and coping with life’s difficulties through physical activity (PA). Body image distress may be one reason to explain PE disengagement and therefore, warrants intervention. Self-compassion (SC) is an emotion regulation strategy that helps deal with body image distress and may be an effective strategy to help girls cope with these negative experiences. The purpose of this pilot study was to examine the feasibility, acceptability, and effectiveness of a SC psychoeducation intervention in PE. Grade 9 and 10 girls enrolled in PE (n = 72) participated in a pragmatic one-group pre-test post-test design. The intervention consisted of a 60-minute SC workshop and 1-month of homework exercises. There was demonstrated feasibility evidence whereby, all available classes and teachers agreed to host the workshop and most participants completed the pre-survey (97.2% of 72), workshop (79.2% of 72), and group feedback session (66.7% of 72), and homework exercises (18.1% of 72). The intervention demonstrated acceptability as indicated by a range of workshop metrics. As expected in a single-arm pilot study, evidence of preliminary effectiveness was limited, with non-significant pre-post differences and very small effect sizes. The knowledge gained from this study may enhance capacity for delivery of scalable curriculum-informed PE promotion strategies which may be broadly transferrable to PA programs.

Summary for Lay Audience

Physical education (PE) is a developmentally important school-related physical activity that builds on motor skills and health-promotion. It is important for one’s physical, social, and mental health. However, girls are dropping out of PE class once it becomes an optional course after grade 9. This is an issue because PE may be one of the only places these girls are physically active (PA) and/or are receiving health promoting messages and education. PE classes have been an area that girls report and recall many negative experiences around their body (i.e., body commentary, teasing, gym clothing, anxiety related to body image, dissatisfied with one’s body shape or size). One area of intervention to help alleviate these body image issues may be self-compassion, which has been used to help target body image in movement settings. Self-compassion is an effective self and emotion regulation strategy which encompasses treating oneself with kindness, recognizing one’s shared humanity, and being mindful when considering negative aspects of oneself. However, to our knowledge no physical education and self-compassion brief intervention has been conducted in girls high school PE class. The aim of this study was to determine if a brief self-compassion intervention is feasible, acceptable, and effective in a physical education setting. Grade 9/10 girls (N=51) participated in a 60-minute self-compassion workshop, and a 75-minute group feedback interview following the workshop. The girls completed survey measures of PE likelihood of re-enrollment, body image coping and self-compassion (before workshop, after workshop, and 1 month later). They also were given a homework manual to complete self-compassion tasks over the month. The survey after the workshop also included questions assessing how the workshop was received, and for the end of intervention survey, the girls were asked open ended questions on effectiveness of the workshop and homework. The study met all the feasibility, and acceptability criteria as indicated by high sores on workshop acceptability, ethical conduct, effectiveness, limited negative side effects, material being beneficial and presented in a useful way. The majority of the girls learned new self-compassion tools, but felt a follow up workshop might be beneficial to help retain the practice of self-compassion.