Social Context of Physical Activity and Weight Status in Working-Class Populations

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Persistent disparities suggest that multiple aspects of social context may influence leisure-time physical activity levels and weight status in multiethnic, working-class populations.


Among participants in two randomized, controlled intervention trials (n = 1,969 in 10 health centers; n = 1,545 in 26 manufacturing businesses) we used general linear mixed models to examine the relationship of variables posited by a social-contextual framework for behavior change with h/wk of self-reported leisure-time physical activity and with body mass index (BMI; weight (kg)/(height (m))2) at baseline, adjusting for clustering within study site.


Age, sex, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic position were independently associated with leisure-time physical activity in both settings; multivariable models explained 15% of the variance in health centers and 11% in small businesses. Leisure-time physical activity and motivation to change lifestyle behaviors were inversely associated with BMI, adjusting for individual, interpersonal, and neighborhood factors. Models explained 12% of variance in BMI in health centers and 10% in small businesses.


A social-contextual framework highlights the contribution of social class and race/ethnicity in the variance in leisure-time physical activity and weight status but suggests other behavioral influences vary in multiethnic, working-class populations.

Peterson, is with the Harvard School of Public Health, 665 Huntington Ave., Building 2-331, Boston, MA; Dubowitz is with the Harvard School of Public Health and the Rand Corporation, ; Stoddard is with the Harvard School of Public Health and New England Research Institutes, ; Troped is with Purdue University, Department of Health and Kinesiology, West Lafayette, IN; Sorensen and Emmons are with the Harvard School of Public Health and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Center for Community-Based Research, Boston, MA.