Academic journal article ABNF Journal

Evaluation of the Heart and Soul Physical Activity Program by African American Women

Academic journal article ABNF Journal

Evaluation of the Heart and Soul Physical Activity Program by African American Women

Article excerpt

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to determine the perceptions of African American (AA) women regarding an active lifestyle, and to evaluate the Heart and Soul Physical Activity Program (HSPAP) as a potential strategy to promote physical activity. The HSPAP is a church-based physical activity intervention conceptualized in appraisal, belonging, tangible and self-esteem domains of social support. Seven midlife, sedentary AA women from a Midwestern urban church participated in the group discussion after completing the HSPAP. Guiding questions were utilized to solicit their attitudes about physical activity and the HSPAP. The study participants believed that physical activity improves health and prevents chronic diseases however, their primary responsibility is to family and jobs, leaving little time or energy for their personal health needs. They further believed that physical activity would increase if recommended by health professionals and encouraged by family, friends, and church members; and, that spiritual messages and prayer would strengthen their commitment to attain an active lifestyle.

Key Words: African American Women, Health Promotion, Church-based Intervention, Physical Activity

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality for aU U.S. adults, and persons from racial and ethnic minorities have the greatest risk for CVD and related conditions (American Heart Association [AHA], 2010). Disproportionate numbers of African Americans (AA) are affected by CVD, resulting in a significant health disparity. Alarmingly, AAs have an age-adjusted morbidity for CVD that is 22% higher than that of the general population in the U.S. (AHA). Many complex and obscure factors have been linked to this health disparity, including income, educational level, genetic and physiological factors, access to healthcare, and communication barriers with health care providers (Bonow, Grant, & Jacobs, 2005; Yancey et al., 2005).

AA women are 1.4 times more likely to die from CVD than Caucasian women of the same age (AHA, 2010). AA women also have a higher prevalence of significant risk factors for CVD, including hypertension, diabetes, overweight, and obesity (Finkelstein, Khavjou, Mobley, Haney, & Will, 2004). These risk factors can be minimized by modifying health behaviors, including adopting and maintaining an active Ufestyle. Research has demonstrated that active women are less likely to develop CVD and other chronic illness than are inactive individuals (Brown, Burton, & Rowan, 2007). However, only 25.3% of AA women reported regular leisure-time physical activity, while 33.7% of Caucasian women report regular leisure-time physical activity (AHA). Despite the known health benefits, AA women do not participate in sufficient amounts of regular, moderately intense physical activity to reduce the risks for CVD. The purpose of this study was to explore the attitudes and perceptions of urban AA women regarding physical activity and attainment of an active lifestyle. Participants in this study were AA women who participated in the church-based Heart and Soul Physical Activity Program (HSPAP) to promote an active lifestyle and minimize risks for CVD.


Many AA women believe that physical activity is important to their health and weU being, yet these women also identify many barriers to actuaUy achieving an active lifestyle (Henderson & Ainsworth, 2003). The biggest barrier to engaging in adequate physical activity that AA women reported was the lack of time in their daily Uves (Henderson & Ainsworth, 2003). Family and job demands, fatigue, illnesses, lack of motivation, economic limitations, unsafe neighborhoods, lack of available faculties or resources, and lack of cultural acceptance are other barriers to adequate physical activity reported by AA women (Nies, Vollman, & Cook, 1999; Wilbur, Chandler, Dancy, & Lee, 2003). Cultural expectations for AA women are to care for their families and fulfill their job obligations (Banks- WaUace, 2000; Henderson & Ainsworth, 2003). …

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