Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Master of Arts




Dr. Eva Pila


Traditional physical activity contexts are male-dominated, cis-heteronormative, and perpetuate Western beauty standards. Research has identified that queer women experience the lowest rates of physical activity participation, compared to other LGBTQ+ groups. The present study investigated the relationship between queer women’s (N = 70) body image, physical activity behaviour, and experiences. Participants completed one virtual focus group and four themes were identified: The Queer Women’s Body is Political; (in)Visibility of Sexual and Gender Identity in Physical Activity; Hypervigilance to Maintain Safety and Reduce Perpetuating Gender-Based Violence; and Desire for Spaces that Foster Safety, Belonging, and Connection. Findings revealed that queer women’s body image impacts participation in physical activity and highlighted the need for queer-friendly physical activity spaces. This research contributes to the development and implementation of physical activity programming designed to promote safety, belonging, and social connection, with the goal of enhancing queer women’s enjoyment and continued engagement in physical activity.

Summary for Lay Audience

This study will investigate queer women’s experiences with their bodies and physical activity more broadly. Preliminary research has identified unique barriers to physical activity participation experienced by the LGBTQ+ community, however, no work has been done to explore the influence of body image on the physical activity experiences of queer women. Traditional physical activity contexts endorse heteronormative ideals, and Western standards of beauty and are primarily occupied by heterosexual individuals. As such, those whose bodies and sexual and/or gender identities diverge from the dominant group may be more likely to disengage or avoid traditional physical activity contexts. In a series of focus groups, we wish to explore whether a unique relationship exists between queer women’s perceptions of their bodies and how this influences their participation and overall experiences in physical activity. Given that little is known about this relationship, this study will use focus groups to foster community connectedness to ask queer women about their body image and how this influences their physical activity behaviour. A deeper understanding of this relationship will support the implementation of queer-inclusive physical activity programming and broadly promote positive physical activity experiences for queer women.