Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Activity Determinants among Mexican American Women in a Border Setting

Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Activity Determinants among Mexican American Women in a Border Setting

Article excerpt


Background: Mexican American women have the highest leisure-time physical inactivity prevalence of any ethnic minority group. Purpose: This study examined a sample of Mexican American females living near the U.S.-Mexico border to determine whether the variables of age, health status, educational level, marital status, and acculturation distinguished between those who are physically active and those who are physically inactive. Methods: Participants included 379 women ranging in age from 22 to 58 years. Data was gathered through a self-report survey instrument with discriminant analysis used to test for variable differentiation between active and inactive subjects. Results: Present activity was comparable to national representative samples, and the discriminant function indicated higher acculturative status and better perceived health differentiated between those women reporting themselves to be physically inactive versus those reporting to be physically active. Discussion: Physical activity interventions targeting border Mexican American women should account for varying acculturation levels. Translation to Health Education Practice: To be effective, program strategies designed to promote physically active lifestyles among border Mexican American women should be linguistically appropriate and culturally sensitive to optimize behavior change.



Insufficient physical activity is an important correlate of a number of health disorders, including increased risk of coronary heart disease, colon cancer, hypertension, and osteoporosis. (1,2) Crespo (3) defined physical inactivity as a lack of participation in any type of leisure-time physical activity, viewing its measurement as less complicated than validly quantifying amounts and patterns of physical activity. As a result of technological advances engineering physical exertion out of daily routines, participation during leisure time has become the most widely studied form of activity assessment. Even though most people have greater amounts of leisure time than in the past, our society is becoming more sedentary; it is estimated that only 32% of the U.S. population age 18 and older regularly engages in moderate physical activity. (4)

An alarming issue attendant to this problem is the very low level of physical activity among minority ethnic groups. This is most evident in the high prevalence of physical inactivity observed among Mexican American women. The literature indicates that Mexican American females, regardless of occupational status, were least likely to engage in moderate or vigorous physical activity or to be physically active during leisure time when compared with Black and non-Hispanic White females. (5,6)

Regular physical activity can help to control body weight, and measuring activity levels is of particular concern in view of our nation's overweight and obesity prevalence. Healthy People 2010 placed overweight and obesity among the country's ten leading health indicators. (7-11) Indeed, being overweight decreases life expectancy by one to three years and increases the risk from all-cause mortality from 50 to 100%. (7) Despite these health risks, U.S. overweight and obesity estimates have dramatically increased in recent years, particularly among Mexican Americans. While the prevalence of overweight (i.e., body mass index [BMI] of at least 25.0) in the overall adult population is approximately 66.3%, among Mexican Americans it is 75.8%. (12) Additionally, obesity (i.e., BMI of 30.0 to 39.9) is prevalent in 40.0% of Mexican American women, (13) and morbid obesity (i.e., BMI of 40.0 or greater) increased four- to fivefold among this group between 1990 and 2000. (14)

The enormity of the physical inactivity and overweight/obesity issue among Mexican American women is underscored by their level of chronic disease risk and morbidity. When compared with non-Hispanic Whites, Mexican American females have two to three times greater Type 2 diabetes rates, are 6 times more likely to develop end-stage renal disease, and are more subject to severe hyperglycemia and its related complications of hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and atherosclerotic vascular disease. …

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