Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Differences in Physical Activity between Black and White Girls Living in Rural and Urban Areas

Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Differences in Physical Activity between Black and White Girls Living in Rural and Urban Areas

Article excerpt

Physical inactivity represents a well-established risk factor for many chronic health problems, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and some cancers, and it is a major public health problem in the United States. (1) National surveys indicate that fewer than two-thirds of youth report participating in vigorous physical activity on three or more days per week. Physical activity by high school students declines steadily with age, particularly among girls. (2) In the 1999 Youth Risk Behavior Survey the percentage of girls reporting vigorous physical activity on three or more days per week declined from 68% in 9th grade to 52% in 12th grade. (3)

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that physical inactivity was highest in rural areas (37%) and lowest in metropolitan areas (27%). (4) People living in rural areas have fewer educational and economic opportunities, less access to health care, and greater transportation problems than do people living in urban areas. (5) Despite these discrepancies, and the fact that an estimated 25% of the US population live in rural areas, physical activity research on youth has focused primarily on urban samples. (6) Physical activity levels also vary by race, with Blacks generally reporting significantly less physical activity than Whites. Black women are at particularly high risk for inactivity. Identification of rural/urban and race/ethnicity differences in physical activity among girls represents an important first step toward developing interventions to increase physical activity among girls and women.

Schools are particularly well-suited to provide the types of programs that can help all students--rural and urban, Black and White, male and female--become more physically active. Schools have the physical education and health education professionals and the facilities needed to create programs that can help students develop the habit of lifelong physical activity. Understanding the factors that influence physical activity behavior, and how these factors vary by setting, race, and gender, can help schools match physical activity programs to the needs and interests of specific groups of students.

This study examined differences in physical, behavioral, psychosocial, and environmental factors associated with physical activity among Black and White adolescent girls living in rural and urban areas. The study also examined the television viewing habits of adolescent girls, because several studies reported a positive association between hours of television viewing and physical inactivity and increased body weight (BMI). (7,8)


Participants and Setting

Participants were Black and White eighth-grade girls recruited from 31 public middle schools in South Carolina to participate in a high school-based intervention to increase physical activity. Participants were categorized as rural or urban/suburban residents using the South Carolina Department of Education designations as defined by the US Census Bureau. Pre-intervention measures were obtained from two cohorts in spring 1998 and 1999. The sample consisted of 1,668 girls with a mean age of 13.4 years (SD = 0.6). The original sample included 2,064 girls from 31 middle schools; 68% (n = 1,405) of students lived in urban areas and 51% (n = 1,044) were Black. Because of missing data on one or more variables, only 1,668 girls were included in the study. Chi-square tests indicated the study sample was similar to the original sample. Of the 1,668 girls, 56% (n = 933) lived in urban areas. Forty-six percent of urban girls and 59% of rural girls were Black.

Conceptual Model

The study was guided by an ecological approach focusing on rural/urban settings, Social Cognitive Theory (SCT), and the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA). SCT is based on the premise that personal factors, including cognition, and the environment are reciprocal, interactive determinants of behavior. …

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