Under-Represented Groups Need Physical Activity

By Berg, Shannon; Van Puymbroeck, Marieke | Parks & Recreation, July 2005 | Go to article overview

Under-Represented Groups Need Physical Activity


Berg, Shannon, Van Puymbroeck, Marieke, Parks & Recreation


Parks and recreation should be the place for non-traditional activity.

Engaging in physical activity is not an easy task for most people. A variety of reasons including personal preferences, abilities and low self-efficacy often cloud the reasons to participate or to refrain from physical activity. However, reasons to engage in physical activity are plentiful, yet many individuals still refrain from participation. Even with the abundance of information about the benefits of physical activity, many groups are still underrepresented in the realm of exercise research, and there is poor translation from research to practice.

In 1996, the Surgeon General reported that Americans could substantially improve their health and quality of life by including regular and moderate amounts of physical activity into their daily lives. Health benefits from physical activity are thus achievable for most Americans, including those who may dislike vigorous exercise, and those who previously have been discouraged by the difficulty of adhering to a time-consuming program of vigorous exercise. Regular physical activity is defined as 30 minutes, most days of the week at a moderate intensity (National Centers for Disease Prevention and Health Promotion [NCD-PHP], 2005). For those who are already achieving regular moderate amounts of activity, additional benefits can be gained by further increases in activity level (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1996 [USDHHS]).

Benefits of Exercise on Mood and Self-efficacy

Depression is the most common psychological problem experienced today, affecting more than 20 percent of the U.S. population (Healthy People 2010 [HP2010], 2005; USDHHS, 1999). Numerous studies have shown that exercise can provide increased positive mood and health effects (e.g. Dunn, Trivedi, Kampert, Clark, & Chambliss, 2005; King et al, 2000; McAuley, Jerome, Marquez, Elavsky, & Blissmer, 2003). A study by Dunn and colleagues (2005) tested the effectiveness of exercise as a treatment for mild to moderate depression. They found that aerobic exercise consistent with public health recommendations, such as those by the Surgeon General, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), resulted in alleviated symptoms of depression.

As researchers continue to study the changing populations and exercise adherence, low self-efficacy has come to the forefront as one of the most influential deterrents of exercise (McAuley, Jerome, Marquez, Elavsky, & Blissmer, 2003). Self-efficacy, as defined by Bandura (1986), is the belief in one's capabilities to organize and execute the sources of action required to manage prospective situations. High self-efficacy is the belief in one's ability to accomplish certain tasks. A person with high self-efficacy will most likely believe that he or she can begin and maintain physical activity as part of a daily routine.

Individuals with low self-efficacy are more likely to believe that initiating physical activity is too difficult for them. It influences actions, attitudes and behaviors and is an assessment of competence. Long-term adherence to an exercise program is associated with high levels of self-efficacy and may positively influence mood; however, research has been lacking on how to increase self-efficacy through increased levels of physical activity.

Under-represented Groups

Despite positive results in the limited research studying the effects of physical activity in under-represented groups, certain groups have often been overlooked regarding the promotion of physical activity. Groups such as those with multiple sclerosis, HIV and caregivers could dramatically benefit and experience improved mood and self-efficacy from physical activity. However, because of a variety of reasons including life circumstances, traditional recommendations, disease symptoms including depression and low self-efficacy, these under-represented groups may experience the negative impact of little or no exercise.

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