Perceived Barriers to Physical Activity among Adult Lesbians

Article excerpt

Abstract

Despite the health benefits derived from regular participation in moderate physical activity, the majority of adult lesbians are not physically active. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between moderate physical activity and the perceived presence and extent of limitation of 30 general and 10 lesbian-specific barriers. The participants were 516 self identified adult lesbians who completed a web-based survey. Compared to physically active participants, participants who were insufficiently active reported more general barriers and a significantly higher extent of limitation of general and lesbian-specific barriers overall. Insufficiently active participants also differed in the perceived presence of one of the five most frequently experienced barriers and in the extent of limitation of three of those five barriers. The study's findings suggest that the impact of barriers may be alleviated through the use of appropriately tailored strategies to help lesbians cope with them. Future research should further examine whether lesbians experience additional population-specific barriers.

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Lesbians, compared to heterosexual women, may have higher rates of obesity and chronic diseases (Gruskin, Hart, Gordon, & Ackerson, 2001; Diamant & Wold, 2003; Valanis et al., 2000). Regular participation in moderate physical activity for at least 150 minutes each week is one recommended behavioral strategy to combat obesity and decrease the risk of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, selected cancers, and osteoporosis (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [USDHHS], 1996). Despite the health benefits of regular participation in moderate physical activity, the majority of adult lesbians are not sufficiently active (Aaron et al., 2001; Valanis et al., 2000).

In view of lesbians' low levels of participation in physical activity, a need exists to identify the factors that prevent or hinder their participation (i.e., perceived barriers; Bandura, 1986; Brawley, Martin, & Gyurcsik, 1998; Brittain, Baillargeon, McElroy, Aaron, & Gyurcsik, 2006). The identification of salient perceived barriers will inform the design of interventions aimed at alleviating the effect of those barriers and at promoting participation in physical activity (Baranowski, Anderson, & Carmack, 1998). Researchers examining perceived barriers to participation in physical activity have typically limited the research focus to internal, individual-level barriers, such as an injury, lack of motivation, or lack of time (Sallis, Bauman, & Pratt, 1998; Nies, Vollman, & Cook, 1998). However, a narrow focus on individual-level barriers may not provide critical information needed to fully understand and identify the broad range of perceived barriers to participation in physical activity (Gyurcsik, Bray, & Brittain, 2004). Therefore, the use of an encompassing model, such as an ecological model, in the examination of perceived barriers is warranted (Gyurcsik et al., 2004).

An ecological model considers internal, individual factors as well as factors within an individual's environment to explain health patterns (Bronfenbrenner, 1979). McLeory, Bibeau, Steckler, and Glanz's (1988) five-level ecological model, intended to guide the design of health-promotion interventions, has been used to examine barriers to participation in physical activity in non-lesbian populations (Gyurcsik et al., 2004; Gyurcsik, Spink, Bray, Chad, & Kwan, 2006). The ecological model (McLeroy et al., 1988) consists of five distinct categories of barriers, including intrapersonal, interpersonal, institutional, community, and public policy barriers. Intrapersonal barriers are factors internal to the individual that prevent or hinder participation in physical activity. Interpersonal, institutional, community, and public policy barriers are external factors, occurring within an individual's social environment. …