Academic journal article College Student Journal

Social Support and Leisure Time Physical Activity in Young Black Women

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Social Support and Leisure Time Physical Activity in Young Black Women

Article excerpt


Black women are noted to be the most at risk population in the United States. In 2011, 69% of Black females in the United States were classified as either overweight or obese (Carter-Francique, 2011). Planned exercise and adequate nutrition are two of the best preventive tools to combat obesity. Leisure time physical activity (LTPA) and other types of recreational and occupational movement are also beneficial in reducing the risk of obesity. Although Black women develop unhealthy lifestyles in their youth and young adulthood, few studies have sought to identify the barriers and facilitators to LTPA or planned exercise in this group. Even fewer studies have exclusively looked at the physical activity adherence in collegiate aged Black women; physical activity levels usually decline as a student begins post-secondary education; hence, the infamous expression "Freshman 15" (Hoffman, Policastro, Quick, & Lee, 2010). Exercise and physical activity habits in the senior year of college are the strongest predictor of physical activity in the years following graduation (Light-foot & Blanchard, 2011).

In past decades, the prevalence of obesity and physical inactivity has increased among women living in the United States. It is worth noting, that women in the Southeast have a higher obesity prevalence than other women residing in other regions of the country (Buchowski et al., 2010). Based on the researchers' conclusions, both Black and White obese women were less physically active than non-obese women who did exercise. Differences in social and cultural factors greatly affected the variations observed in the data. Although collegiate aged Black women have an elevated risk for obesity (Carter-Francique, 2011), no studies were found that explore social or cultural factors (including social support) among collegiate aged Black women as it related to physical activity and geographical region. This study will attempt to fill this gap in the literature.

Rohm, Young, and Voorhees (2003) found that Black women engaged more in physical activity if they were associating with someone physically active. They also found that women with fewer social roles were more likely to meet the current physical activity guidelines. This indicates that those who were less busy (and also perceived themselves as less busy) were more physically active (Rohm, Young & Voorhees, 2003).

In another study, Sharma, Sargent, and Stacy (2005) found that social support was positively associated with adult physical activity. These researchers examined four types of social support: emotional, informational, instrumental and appraisal. Emotional support deals with showing love and care (Sharma et al., 2005). Informational social support involved giving advice. Instrumental social support includes tangible signs of care. Lastly, appraisal support aids in self-evaluation. In this study, self-efficacy and social support of friends were statistically significant predictors of leisure time physical activity. Both of these correlates have also been found to influence the duration of physical activity in this and other studies (Eyler et al., 1998; Sharma et al., 2005; Wilcox, Bopp, Oberrecht, Kammermann, & McElmurray, 2003).

In addition to the social support demonstrated through valuable friendships, parental influence plays a significant role in the social support of an adolescent. This also indirectly influences an adolescent's health behaviors, which include physical activity adherence. According to the Family Ecological Model, parenting behaviors are shaped by the contexts in which the family is placed (Davison, Jurkowski, & Lawson, 2013). Davison, et al. (2013) also state that educational, cultural background, family size and lack of social support affect their parenting ability and their connectedness to the community. These factors in turn, play a significant role in the development of obesity as well as physical activity adherence. …

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