Examining the Role of Churches in Adolescent Girls’ Physical Activity

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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In adults, associations between church attendance and positive health behaviors exist; however, similar evidence among children and youth is lacking. The purposes of this investigation were to examine the associations between physical activity (PA) and church attendance, PA and use of church as a PA facility, and PA and proximity to churches among those who use church as a PA facility (while addressing racial and geographical differences).


High school girls (N = 915, age = 17.7 ± 0.6 years, 56% African American) completed the 3-Day Physical Activity Recall and surveys including demographics and use of PA facilities. Geographic Information Systems data were used to spatially examine the number of churches within a 0.75-mile street network buffer around girls’ homes. Associations were examined using mixed model analyses controlling for demographic factors.


For the overall sample, total METs (56 versus 52) and proportion of girls meeting PA guidelines (62% vs. 52%) were significantly higher in church attendees versus nonattendees. Among participants who used facilities, having more churches close to home was associated with more PA.


Church attendance and use are correlates of physical activity that should be further explored and addressed in future intervention research with adolescent girls.

Pfeiffer is with the Dept of Kinesiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI. Colabianchi is with the Dept of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC. Dowda and Pate are with the Dept of Exercise Science, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC. Porter and Hibbert are with the Dept of Environmental Health Sciences, of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.