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Running and cultural participation - a qualitative study

Sep 2014

This research was commissioned by Glasgow Life and the Glasgow Centre for Population Health to better understand what motivates or prevents people from running or attending cultural venues within low participation neighbourhoods in Glasgow. The research was carried out using qualitative methods, including focus groups, in-depth interviews and a community session with local residents. Although running and cultural attendance are understood to be quite different activities, both are recognised as being leisure options which have the potential to impact positively on health and wellbeing. 


The research on running found that people were motivated to run to de-stress, to boost their self esteem, to socialise or to enable participation in running events. For those that were committed to running, a range of day to day factors were important in maintaining their interest. These included goal setting, finding new routes, staying fit or using running to maintain fitness for other sports.  

Although these runners appeared to be highly self-motivated, their social and physical environment was often supportive in enabling them to continue. A number of barriers were also highlighted for those that do not run regularly. These factors tended to relate to personal feelings such as a lack of self confidence, which was often accompanied by the belief that a high level of fitness is required to be a runner. Personal preferences around where to run were noticeable by gender, with men more likely to feel uncomfortable within a gym environment and women less likely to run outside. Other barriers emerged in relation to social norms in communities, the built infrastructure, competing interests and other de-motivating factors such as the weather. 

Cultural participation

For cultural participation it was apparent that many people do not currently have a desire to visit cultural venues. Many people that did participate reported having a strong personal interest in the subject matter or visited museums while accompanying their children (i.e. not for their own personal interest or benefit). As with running, it was clear that positive influences or a supportive environment were important for maintaining interest. The research highlighted that many people do not consider attending cultural venues to be an appealing alternative to other forms of social or cultural activity. For both running and cultural participation, people from regenerated parts of the city were more likely to have an interest in the activity.   

Summary and recommendations

Overall the research paints a complex picture of why people run or attend cultural venues and what actions might help to increase participation levels in both activities. 

It is clear that many people aspire to become regular runners, but they do not feel confident enough to begin, or motivated enough to maintain the levels of training that are required to improve. This suggests that increasing opportunities for running, ensuring that people have an adequate support network and making improvements to the built infrastructure – e.g. accessible running paths, improved on-street safety – could lead to increased participation. 

Cultural activity, meanwhile, is not often considered to be more appealing than other competing leisure time activities, and it is evident that the cultural activities on offer in the city could better reflect the wide range of cultural interests within the population.

The report’s recommendations include promoting the benefits and attractiveness of visits to cultural venues, creating more locally-relevant exhibits and linking cultural venues with existing activities such as local walking groups. Further recommendations relate to the accessibility of cultural venues, which could be improved by reducing financial and transportation barriers.

Running and cultural participation report FINAL

pdf | 1.17MB


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