Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



Physical inactivity is a major health risk factor in our society. Women and minority populations are especially at risk with regard to physical inactivity. This three-part study employed quantitative and qualitative methodologies to investigate physical activity behaviors in middle aged and older African American women. This population was chosen because African American women are the least active segment of our society. In the first phase, a quantitative approach was used to investigate relationships between Self-Determination and the Stage of Change for physical activity in a sample of 105 African American women. This study provided validation for using this theoretical approach in a population of African American women and provided a clearer understanding of the types of motivation most likely to contribute to the initiation and maintenance of exercise in this population. Guided by the underlying assumption that the reasons African American women choose to be active or inactive can only be fully understood by carefully examining their perspectives, a qualitative approach was used in the second and third phases of the study. Fifteen physically active and fifteen physically inactive women were purposively selected from the initial sample for in depth interviews in phase two. Categorical and contextual analysis indicated that perceptions of health status were a powerful influence on physical activity behavior. Perceptions of health status reflected the beliefs individuals held about a particular disease or physical condition, and the limitations they associated with that condition. In the third phase, six participants were selected for a multiple case study design. Cases analysis revealed that women shaped their physical activity patterns around their understanding of how physical activity would directly influence their desire to maintain independence from health costs, physical limitations related to their health, expected age related decline and their dependence on others. Across each phase of this project, identifying an individual’s level of motivation, as well as exploring the influences of that individual’s social context in a particular stage of change, has contributed to our understanding of factors to consider when developing effective behavior change interventions in this population.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Melinda A Solmon

Included in

Kinesiology Commons