Perceptions of physical activity and personal barriers and enablers in African-American women

Sara Wilcox, Donna L. Richter, Karla A. Henderson, Mary L. Greaney, Barbara E. Ainsworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Objective: To examine perceptions of physical activity and physical activity barriers and enablers in African-American women. Design and Methods: Six focus groups were conducted with 42 African-American women, aged 19-51 years, who resided in South Carolina. Transcripts were coded and analyzed using NUD*IST. Results: Women initially thought of physical activity in terms of structured exercise but identified lifestyle physical activities when prompted. Participants held strong negative views of sedentary African-American women, and strong positive views of active African-American women. However, women cited several undesirable outcomes that could result from physical activity, including appearing too masculine. Body weight and physical activity were generally viewed as independent: participants stressed that one could be both fit and heavy. As a result, women believed the physical and mental health benefits of physical activity should be emphasized over weight-related outcomes in physical activity interventions. Factors found to be correlates of physical activity in adults in general were also cited by this population, including attitudes, perceived benefits and barriers, knowledge, self-motivation, and enjoyment. Additional themes included the priority placed on the needs of the family at the expense of one's own needs, the positive association between a healthy diet and being physically active, and equating being "busy" with being active. Conclusions: Physical activity interventions with African-American women may benefit from targeting correlates that are well-established with other populations, as well as correlates that appear unique to this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)353-362
Number of pages10
JournalEthnicity and Disease
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002


  • African American
  • Correlates
  • Physical activity
  • Qualitative research
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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