New study suggests the 'buddy system' wins results for African-American women and exercise

September 06, 2005

Results of a new survey into the exercise routines of African-American women found two key factors that increased their motivation to take a brisk walk, ride a bike or get involved in other leisure-time physical activity. The survey found that the women who performed moderate exercise also had the confidence to achieve the task, plus, they had the social support of their friends and family, says Manoj Sharma, associate professor of health promotion and education at the University of Cincinnati.

The Office of the U.S. Attorney General has reported that nearly a third of Americans are missing out on leisure-time physical activity, increasing their risk for obesity, hypertension, diabetes and other health problems. Previous studies have found that low-income minority women in particular fail to meet the recommended guidelines for moderate exercise.

The survey got responses from 240 African-American women, ranging in age from 18-78, with the average age being 36. The survey took place at a church and a community health center in Nebraska. The women were asked if they had done any moderate physical activity over the past week, such as brisk walking, yard work, swimming, riding a bicycle or dancing. "The most common answer we received was a report of zero minutes of leisure physical activity," Sharma says. "But self-efficacy - the confidence a person has in an ability to perform a behavior - as well as social support, either from family or from friends, were found to be significant predictors for physical activity and accounted for over 23 percent of the variance," Sharma says.

"The surgeon general has identified high-risk populations for physical inactivity and African-American women are among them, yet not many studies have been done in this area," Sharma says. He is now exploring the development of programs to motivate more exercise - programs developed around the idea of building on social support and self-efficacy.

Leslie Sargent, a health educator in West Sacramento, and Richard Stacy, professor of health education at the University of Nebraska, were contributing researchers and authors of the study.

University of Cincinnati

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