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What Influences an Increase in Physical Activityfor Women to Promote a Healthier Life

Plonczynski, Donna J.

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: May 2004 - Volume 36 - Issue 5 - p S62–S63
Annual Meeting Abstracts: B-26 – Free Communication/Poster: Determinants of Physical Activity

Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL.



High prevalence rates of cardiovascular disease and inactivity have been identified with older rural women. Yet, little is known about the factors that influence physical activity in this population to reduce the cardiovascular disease risks. PURPOSE: The main purpose of this study was to identify the contributions of multiple environmental, psychosocial, and physiological factors on household, leisure, and occupational physical activity behaviors of older women who resided in low-income rural communities in the Midwest. METHODS: The convenience sample consisted of 176 older women who resided in one rural county in the Midwest. The face-to-face interviews were conducted in the women's homes after Institutional Review Board approval. Blood pressure, height, and weight were measured prior to proceeding with the instruments. Descriptive statistics, correlations, Student t-tests, and regression were used to evaluate the research questions. RESULTS: The participants were generally inactive, with high rates of obesity, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. Sixtyfour percent of a woman's physical activity energy expenditure was from the household domain. Background factors explained household physical activity performance F (11,164) = 2.27, p = .01. Married women, those with higher levels of social support, and those living in the more rural communities engaged in significantly higher levels of household physical activity. Rural women received a high level of social support for household activities. Leisure physical activity was also explained by the background factors F (11,164) = 2.53, p = < .01. Women who resided in the two largest cities, with easier access to sidewalks and recreational facilities, engaged in significantly higher levels of leisure activities. In addition, less than optimal health and motivation had significant relationships with the performance of leisure physical activity. Women who were less healthy had adopted higher levels of physical activity during their leisure time in the past year. Interestingly, women who were inactive overestimated their motivation for activity, while those who were active had a realistic view of their motivation for remaining active. CONCLUSION: Health care educators can use the study information to validate women's activity within their households, encourage activities that are enjoyable, link physical activity performance with health benefits, and support efforts to socialize in order to stay active. The results of this research will aid in the implementation of a currently funded physical activity intervention in the county.

Supported by:

NINR, NIH T2 NR07075-08

NINR, NIH F31 NR8070-01

©2004The American College of Sports Medicine