Physical activity in urban white, African-American, and Mexican-American women

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Purpose and Methods:

The purpose of this study was to analyze physical activity in a large, diverse sample of urban women (N = 521; X¯ = 40.5 ± 10.5 yr) relative to race/ethnicity, income, age, and education, using a sex-specific physical activity questionnaire. We also examined demographic and behavioral predictors of high levels (≥ 2000 kcal·wk−1) of leisure-time physical activity (LTPA; exercise, sports, recreational activities) in this population.


The majority of women were sedentary (0-666 kcal·wk−1 in LTPA), and only 8% of African-American women (N = 6), 11% of Mexican-American women (N = 4), and 13% of white women (N = 55) participated in the level of physical activity recommended by the surgeon general (i.e., moderate to vigorous physical activity most days of the week for at least 30 min). Women of color, women over 40, and women without a college education had the lowest levels of participation in LTPA. Logistic regression analysis indicated that education was the only significant predictor of high LTPA in white women (P < 0.01) and marital status was the only significant predictor of high LTPA in minority women (P < 0.001). Age, body mass index (BMI; kg·m−2), income, self-rated health, alcohol intake, and smoking were not significant predictors of high LTPA for any of the women. Because the majority of adult women from this sample do not participate in adequate amounts of physical activity as recommended by the surgeon general, they may be at increased risk for hypokinetic diseases.


These results indicate that public health efforts to increase physical activity in women should be focused on women of color, women over 40, and women without a college degree. More attention to predictors of physical activity that are specific to race or ethnicity may improve intervention program design and implementation.

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