Tuff, Raegan Alexandria
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The purpose of this study was to investigate Black women’s physical activity experiences from elementary to high school with the goal of helping health promotion practitioners and researchers develop programs to prevent decline in physical activity among Black adolescents. The following research questions guided the study: 1) What factors in the community shape physical activity for young Black women? 2) How does being Black and female shape attitudes and engagement concerning physical activity from elementary to high school? The researcher employed a purposive and snowball sampling technique to select nine Black women, who ranged in age from 20 to 26 years. Participants included in the study self-identified as Black women, were not currently pregnant, and had attended middle and/or high school in a metropolitan area in the Southeast. The researcher used a semi-structured interview guide to gather data. Participants also completed a demographic survey and the International Physical Activity Questionnaire, a 7-day physical activity recall. Interviews lasted between 1.5-2 hours. Using biographic qualitiatve methods, and constant comparative methods to identify the major themes in the study, the researcher arranged each participant’s interview data in narrative form, chronologically, and in first person to keep true to the voice of the participants. Seven factors emerged as salient to Black women’s physical activity experiences: 1) having physically active role models during childhood encouraged participants to become involved in active and structured play activities such as walking, soccer, cheerleading, and basketball; 2) living in close proximity to parks and recreation centers facilitated physical activity; 3) providing physical opportunities for girls served as a convenient and inexpensive way to participate in physical activity programs; 4) as the participants entered high school, perceiving that peers expected them to behave in appropriately “feminine” ways caused participants to engage in less vigorous forms of physical activity; 5) participating in physical activity with same sex peers became salient to physical activity engagement in high school; 6) taking long bus rides home through the Minority to Majority bus program discouraged physical activity participation after school; and 7) managing priorities and other adult responsibilities, such as preparing for college and pregnancy, decreased participants’ interest in physical activity. To conclude, physical activity of most participants declined between the ages of 13-17, several factors in the community shaped participants’ physical activity to enhance or buffer that decline, and race—when examined in context with socioeconomic status and gender—interacted in unique ways to limit physical activity opportunities and contribute to physical activity decline. Implications for practice, education, and research are discussed for increasing physical activity and preventing its decline.