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An Environmental Intervention Aimed at Increasing Physical Activity Levels in Low-Income Women

Speck, Barbara J. PhD; Hines-Martin, Vicki PhD; Stetson, Barbara A. PhD; Looney, Stephen W. PhD

The Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing: July-August 2007 - Volume 22 - Issue 4 - p 263-271
doi: 10.1097/01.JCN.0000278957.98124.8a

Background: Regular physical activity is a health promotion and disease prevention behavior. Of all demographic groups, low-income women report the lowest levels of physical activity.

Research Objective: The purpose of this study was to test an intervention aimed at reducing community environmental barriers to physical activity in low-income women.

Methods: The research design was mixed methodology: (1) quantitative (quasi-experimental, pretest-posttest, cohort design in which no treatment partitioning was possible) and (2) qualitative (focus groups). The setting was a church-sponsored community center centrally located in a low-income urban neighborhood. The comparison group was recruited first followed by the intervention group to control for setting. The sample consisted of 104 women (comparison group, n = 53; intervention group, n = 51) between the ages of 18 and 63 years who were residents of neighborhoods served by the community center.

Results: No between-group differences were found for physical activity behavior. Significant between-group differences in cholesterol (P = .007) and perception of physical activity (P = .033) were observed. Significant intervention group increases from pretest to posttest were found related to advanced registered nurse practitioner support, friend support, and more positive physical activity environment at the community center. Qualitative data supported and enriched the quantitative data.

Conclusions: Physical activity levels were not significantly different between the groups. In a sample of low-income women who have multiple barriers, improving attitudes, expanding their knowledge of community resources, and providing physical activity opportunities in their neighborhoods are important intermediate steps toward initiation and maintenance of regular physical activity.

Barbara J. Speck, PhD Associate Professor, School of Nursing, University of Louisville, Louisville, Ky.

Vicki Hines-Martin, PhD Associate Professor, School of Nursing, University of Louisville, Louisville, Ky.

Barbara A. Stetson, PhD Assistant Professor, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of Louisville, Louisville, Ky.

Stephen W. Looney, PhD Professor, Department of Biostatistics, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, Ga.

This study was funded by National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases #RO1 DK63523. Principal Investigator: Barbara J. Speck.

Corresponding author Barbara J. Speck, PhD, School of Nursing, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40292 (e-mail:

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.