Scoping Conceptions of Equity: Reviewing a Decade of Physical Activity Research


social determinants of health
scoping review
social ecological model
social justice
physical activity disparity
active living

How to Cite

John, D., Andress, L., Aytur, S., Dodge, T., Gustat, J., Schuchardt-Vogt, C., & Lee, R. E. (2023). Scoping Conceptions of Equity: Reviewing a Decade of Physical Activity Research. Journal of Healthy Eating and Active Living, 3(1), 7–18.


Lee and Cubbin’s (2009) call for a “socially-just” ecological model of physical activity (EMPA) prompted an inquiry into physical activity (PA), active living (AL) research that advances social justice framed as a set of equity-centered principles for research. In response to the call, we conducted a scoping review to explore how PA research has operationalized equity to advance a “socially-just” EMPA.  We searched for original research, published between 2010 and 2020, using key terms ‘physical activity’ and ‘equity’ that produced 5,152 non-duplicated records. Title-abstract screening for exclusion/inclusion criteria disqualified 4,392 records. A review protocol and coding guide was developed, piloted, and revised by team members. The remaining 760 abstracts were reviewed and consensus coded by PA Variable (dependent or independent) and Factor (individual outcome or contextual-exposure), Equity (population demographic or social-environmental determinant), and Social Ecological Milieu (SEM) (PAAL-specific or SEM-general policy, system, or environment (PSE) operations. Of the 463 studies selected, PA codified as an individual outcome (67%) more often than as a contextual-exposure (33%) factor. Equity codified more frequently as a population demographic (69%) rather than as a social-environmental determinant (31%). The SEM codified as PAAL-specific (44%) or as SEM-general (56%) PSE factors. Based on multistep study abstract reviews, the selected studies more often missed the opportunity to center equity in PA research by examining social, environmental, political, and systemic factors as institutionalized inequities at the root of PAAL disparities. We will not achieve a “socially-just” EMPA without shared conceptualizations of equity followed by intentional action.


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Copyright (c) 2023 Deborah John, Lauri Andress, Semra Aytur, Tina Dodge, Jeanette Gustat, Clare Schuchardt-Vogt, Rebecca E. Lee