A Mixed Methods Comparison of Perceived Benefits and Barriers to Exercise Between Obese and Nonobese Women

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Lucia Andrea Leone
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Dianne S. Ward
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Obese women have lower levels of physical activity than nonobese women, but it is unclear what drives these differences.


Mixed methods were used to understand why obese women have lower physical activity levels. Findings from focus groups with obese white women age 50 and older (N = 19) were used to develop psychosocial items for an online survey of white women (N = 195). After examining the relationship between weight group (obese vs. nonobese) and exercise attitudes, associated items (P < .05) were tested for potential mediation of the relationship between weight and physical activity.


Obese women were less likely than nonobese women to report that they enjoy exercise (OR = 0.4, 95% CI 0.2−0.8) and were more likely to agree their weight makes exercise difficult (OR = 10.6, 95% CI 4.2−27.1), and they only exercise when trying to lose weight (OR = 3.8, 95% CI 1.6−8.9). Enjoyment and exercise for weight loss were statistically significant mediators of the relationship between weight and physical activity.


Exercise interventions for obese women may be improved by focusing on exercise enjoyment and the benefits of exercise that are independent of weight loss.

The authors are with the Dept of Nutrition, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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