Physical inactivity, overweight, and obesity are endemic in the United States and in the developed world, leading to increased morbidity and mortality. More information is needed regarding the physical activity beliefs, attitudes, barriers, and perceived self-control among those who are sedentary and weight-challenged. The purpose of this study was to elicit physical activity beliefs about feasibility, pleasure, and movement descriptions from sedentary, middle-aged, overweight women.
Open-ended questions were used throughout individual interviews with 23 participants (age: M = 52.0, SD = 7.3; BMI: M = 34.2, SD = 9.79); attitudes and beliefs regarding physical activity and movement descriptions were documented. Participants were divided into those who were completely sedentary (12 women) and those who regularly engaged in physical activity (11 women).
A content analysis revealed that sedentary women were less active and had more perceived barriers to physical activity than active women. The most frequently cited perceived barriers were injuries, caregiving responsibilities, time, age, dislike of sweating, and depression. Sedentary women were less likely to report physical activity as pleasurable; they were also more likely to cite having an exercise buddy as an optimal activity situation. The most frequently cited pleasurable activities in both groups were yoga, movement to music, stretching, and walking.
This study provided evidence that perceived barriers to physical activity must be addressed, that low-intensity programs are needed and desired by overweight and sedentary women, and that movement activities must be found that are enjoyable for the target population.
The author is with the Department of Applied Health Science, School of Public Health, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN.