Personal, Social, and Environmental Correlates of Physical Activity in Urban African-American Women

Deborah Young and Carolyn Voorhees

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Background:
African-American women are at risk of chronic diseases for which regular physical activity can provide benefits. This group, however, remains predominantly sedentary. Little research has been undertaken to elucidate the multiple factors that influence their physical activity levels. This study was designed to determine associations among personal, social environmental, and physical environmental factors with physical activity level in urban African-American women.

Methods:
The Women and Physical Activity Survey, an interviewer-administered survey consisting of demographic, personal, and social and physical environmental factors, was given to 234 African-American women living in Baltimore, Maryland. Physical activity level was determined from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey. Women were divided into three groups: meeting current recommendations for moderate or vigorous physical activity, insufficiently active, and inactive. Comparisons were made between the group of women that met recommendations versus women who did not, and women who reported any activity versus women who were inactive.

Results:
Twenty-one percent (48) of women met recommendations for physical activity, 61% (143) were insufficiently active, and 18% (43) were inactive. Women who had a partner or who had no children were less likely to engage in some physical activity. Inactive women were more likely than women who participated in some physical activity to know people who exercised.Women who belonged to community groups were more likely to be inactive than women who met current recommendations for physical activity. Women with fewer social roles were more likely to meet current recommendations. Physical environment factors were not associated with physical activity level.

Conclusions:
Further exploration is needed to determine how personal and social environmental and physical environmental factors relate to physical activity in African-American women.