by Abby C. King, Ph.D., Cynthia Castro, Ph.D., Sara Wilcox, Ph.D.,
Amy A. Eyler, Ph.D., James F. Sallis, Ph.D. and Ross C. Brownson, Ph.D.

Psychologists Abby C. King, Ph.D., and Cynthia Castro, Ph.D., of Stanford University School of Medicine, epidemiologist Ross C. Brownson, Ph.D., of St. Louis University and three other researchers collected data over a one year period from an ethnically diverse sample of 2,912 white, African American, Hispanic and American Indian-Alaskan Native women. Only about nine percent of the study participants met the definition of being regularly active, which is comparable to that of other studies involving middle- and older-aged women. The American Indian-Alaskan Native and African American subgroups in the study had the largest percentages of women falling within the inactive category, 59 percent and 57 percent respectively.

For the sample as a whole as well as for one or more of the racial-ethnic subgroups evaluated separately, being less educated or older, lacking energy to exercise, reporting a lack of hills in one's neighborhood, perceived poor health and infrequently observing others exercising in one's neighborhood were associated with inactive lifestyles.

The finding that a lack of hills was a barrier to physical activity was unexpected and surprising to the researchers. "It is possible," say the authors, "that hilly neighborhoods provide more interesting scenery in which to undertake physical activity. An alternate explanation is that undertaking physical activity in hilly neighborhoods increases perceived effort, making such activity more salient and thus more likely to be reported than physical activity on flat terrain."

Caregiving duties were also identified as important barriers to physical activity for women. Similar findings were also reported from a recent large European study. The authors say these findings underscores the need to identify the types of physical activity regimens that are most appropriate to the caregiving situation.

The study also found that close to two-thirds of the respondents from all four racial-ethnic subgroups and from each of the three defined physical activity categories expressed a preference for undertaking physical activity on one's own, with some instruction, as opposed to in a group with an exercise leader. The researchers say this finding "probably reflects the roles that convenience and flexibility play in influencing people's physical activity choices."


Reference: "Personal and Environmental Factors Associated With Physical Inactivity Among Different Racial-Ethnic Groups of U.S. Middle-Aged and Older-Aged Women," Abby C. King and Cynthia Castro, Sara Wilcox, Amy A. Eyler, James F. Sallis and Ross C. Brownson; Health Psychology, Vol. 19, No. 4.

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