Audience Responses to Physical Activity in the Biggest Loser Australia

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Health Communication, 2019, 24 (1), pp. 21 - 28
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©, Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. The popular reality television show The Biggest Loser Australia (TBL) is a significant source of media content about physical activity. This study examined audience responses to and interpretations of physical activity in TBL. A qualitative study using in-depth interviews was conducted in New South Wales, Australia. A sample of 46 viewers of TBL was recruited, stratified by gender, age group, area of residence, and body mass index. Interview data were thematically analyzed to identify how viewers evaluated TBL. Respondents were most positive about TBL as public health education, premised on personal responsibility, the need for extreme action, and the possibilities of human agency (individually and collectively). Conversely, they were critical about whether the portrayal of physical activity could guide and inspire them personally. They expressed feelings of disgust and fear in response to the exercise challenges, questioned the practicality of the behavior change process in light of their own experience, and were skeptical about the purpose of the program itself. TBL’s representation of physical activity may be limited in its capacity to encourage physical activity. Despite the wide viewership of this program, encouraging physical requires innovation in the development of practical, persuasive and evidence based media messages about physical activity.
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