Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Motivators of and Barriers to Engaging in Physical Activity: Perspectives of Low-Income Culturally Diverse Adolescents and Adults

Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Motivators of and Barriers to Engaging in Physical Activity: Perspectives of Low-Income Culturally Diverse Adolescents and Adults

Article excerpt


Background: Obesity rates are rising in the United States, especially among low-income and racial/ethnic minority individuals. Exploring motivators and barriers relative to engaging in physical activity is imperative. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to identify motivators and barriers relative to engagement in physical activity as reported by culturally diverse low-income adolescents and adults. Methods: A total of 91 adolescent (11 to 15 years of age) and adult (18 years of age or older) participants who self-identified as African American, Hispanic, or non-Hispanic White engaged in age group-, race/ethnicity-, and gender-concordant focus groups. Results: Qualitative data analysis indicated that the motivators and barriers most commonly identified among the adolescent and adult focus groups were: social influence; time and priorities; physical environment; fun and enjoyment; inherently physical activities; weight concerns; fatigue, physical discomfort and current fitness level; and immediate positive feelings. Discussion: Findings were generally similar across age group, gender and race/ethnicity. Age group-specific, gender-specific and race/ ethnicity-specific motivators and barriers were related to how commonly the motivators and barriers were identified among each group. Translation to Health Education Practice: Implications for increasing physical activity among low-income culturally diverse adolescents and adults are discussed.


Overweight and obesity among adolescents and adults have increased significantly in the United States. (1) In 2006, over 17% of adolescents ages 12 to 19 were considered overweight and over one-third of adults were considered obese. (1) Obesity disproportionately affects racial/ethnic minority populations, with African Americans and Hispanics evidencing higher rates of obesity than non-Hispanic Whites. (1) Healthy People 2010 identified overweight and obesity among the country's 10 leading health indicators, as these health problems have been found to be associated with a number of disease conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and cancer. (2) Due to the increased risk for chronic disease that results from being overweight or obese, effective interventions that promote healthy behaviors and reduce overweight and obesity among adults and adolescents are especially needed.

Low-income African American youth and Hispanic youth are disproportionately affected by several of the health problems that can be prevented through engagement in health promoting behaviors. (1,3,4) Thus, national agencies are calling for interventions to promote healthy behaviors among all Americans, but especially among low-income and minority children and adolescents. (2) Additionally, because individuals who are overweight or obese as children also tend to be overweight or obese as adults, it is particularly important to include youth in research focused on understanding, modifying, and preventing obesity. (5)

Engagement in physical activity has been linked to improved health in youth and adults. Physical activity has been identified as one important tool in achieving and maintaining weight loss and combating obesity. (6,7,8) However, despite the detrimental impact of inactivity on health, many adolescents in the United States do not engage in recommended levels of physical activity. (9,10)

Development of effective interventions to promote engagement in health promoting behaviors, such as physical activity, requires an understanding of the most salient factors that influence such behavior. Bandura's Social Cognitive Theory posits that engagement in health behaviors is influenced by a combination of personal determinants (e.g., biological and cognitive factors) and socio-environmental influences. Identifying motivators of and barriers to engagement in health promoting behaviors as perceived by adolescents and adults would enhance the knowledge-base regarding personal factors that influence engagement in physical activity. …

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