The Connections between Social Support and Women’s Physical Activity Involvement: the Cultural Activity Participation Study

in Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal
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  • 1 Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies CB #3185 Evergreen University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC 27599
  • 2 School of Public Health University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
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Cultural influences are often important in shaping women’s approaches to healthy living (Sarto, 1998). The lives of many people of color in American society generally are associated with close family ties and community identification (Keller, 1993). If these assumptions are true, then it may be useful to understand the social dynamics that exist in the lives of African American and American Indian women to better understand health issues related to their participation, or lack of participation, in leisure and physical activities. The purpose of this analysis was to explore the meanings of social support and physical activity as expressed by older African American and American Indian women who participated in the Cultural Activity Participation Study (CAPS). We used a grounded theory approach to analyze data from in-depth qualitative interviews conducted with 56 African American and American Indian women in the United States. Based upon the analysis complex social dynamics occurred that both encouraged and inhibited women’s involvement in physical activities. It was shown that these women’s families and community relationships tended to be more important than their personal identities, and that social support systems had an influence on perceptions of, opportunities for, and involvement in leisure related physical activity.

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