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Sara Wilcox, Melinda Forthofer, Patricia A. Sharpe and Brent Hutto


Walking interventions delivered by lay leaders have been shown to be effective. Knowing the characteristics of individuals who volunteer to be group leaders in walking programs could facilitate more efficient and effective recruitment and training.


Walking group leaders were recruited into a community-based program and formed walking groups from existing social networks. Leaders and members completed a survey, participated in physical measurements, and wore an accelerometer. Regression models (adjusting for group clustering and covariates) tested psychosocial and behavioral differences between leaders and members.


The sample included 296 adults (86% women, 66% African American). Leaders (n = 60) were similar to members (n = 236) with respect to most sociodemographic and health characteristics, but were significantly older and more likely to report arthritis and high cholesterol (P-values < .05). Although leaders and members were similar in sedentary behavior and physical activity, leaders reported higher levels of exercise self-regulation, self-efficacy, and social support (P-values < .01). Leaders also reported greater use of outdoor trails (P = .005) and other outdoor recreation areas (P = .003) for physical activity than members.


Although walking group leaders were no more active than members, leaders did display psychosocial characteristics and behaviors consistent with a greater readiness for change.

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Melinda Forthofer, Sara Wilcox, Deborah Kinnard, Brent Hutto and Patricia A. Sharpe

Background: Social network–driven approaches have promise for promoting physical activity in community settings. Yet, there have been few direct investigations of such interventions. This study tested the effectiveness of a social network–driven, group-based walking intervention in a medically underserved community. Methods: This study used a quasi-experimental pretest–posttest design with 3 measurement time points to examine the effectiveness of Sumter County on the Move! in communities in Sumter County, SC. A total of 293 individuals participated in 59 walking groups formed from existing social networks. Participants were 86% females, 67% black, and 31% white, with a mean age of 49.5 years. Measures included perceptions of the walking groups; psychosocial factors such as self-regulation, self-efficacy, and social support; and both self-reported and objectively measured physical activity. Results: The intervention produced significant increases in goal setting and social support for physical activity from multiple sources, and these intervention effects were sustained through the final measurement point 6 months after completion of the intervention. Nonetheless, few of the desired changes in physical activity were observed. Conclusion: Our mixed results underscore the importance of future research to better understand the dose and duration of intervention implementation required to effect and sustain behavior change.

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Melinda Forthofer, Marsha Dowda, Jennifer R. O’Neill, Cheryl L. Addy, Samantha McDonald, Lauren Reid and Russell R. Pate

Background: Gender differences in physical activity (PA) trajectories during adolescence are well documented, yet little research has examined whether the determinants of these trajectories vary by child’s gender. This study is one of few prospective examinations of gender differences in the influences of psychosocial and socioenvironmental factors on changes in objectively measured PA. Methods: Students and parents from elementary and middle schools located in 2 school districts in South Carolina were enrolled in a prospective cohort study of changes in children’s PA from elementary to middle school. Measures included children’s and/or parents’ ratings of various psychosocial and socioenvironmental factors as well as objectively measured PA, children’s anthropometric characteristics, and neighborhood factors at fifth and sixth grades. Results: Parents’ reports of children’s sport and class participation, parent-reported support for PA, and neighborhood resources for PA were protective against declines in PA for both boys and girls. The effects of 2 factors—children’s self-efficacy and parents’ leisure-time PA—on changes in PA over time were moderated by the child’s gender. Conclusions: A better understanding of these dynamics may inform the development of interventions.

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Erica Y. Lau, Daheia J. Barr-Anderson, Marsha Dowda, Melinda Forthofer, Ruth P. Saunders and Russell R. Pate

This study examined associations of various elements of the home environment with after-school physical activity and sedentary time in 671 6th-grade children (Mage = 11.49 ± 0.5 years). Children’s after-school total physical activity, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, and sedentary time were measured by accelerometry. Parents completed surveys assessing elements of the home social and physical environment. Mixed-model regression analyses were used to examine the associations between each element of the home environment and children’s after-school physical activity and sedentary time. Availability of home physical activity resources was associated positively with after-school total physical activity and negatively with after-school sedentary time in boys. Parental support was associated positively with after-school total physical activity and MVPA and negatively with after-school sedentary time in girls. The home physical environment was associated with boys’ after-school physical activity and sedentary time, whereas the home social environment was associated with girls’ after-school physical activity and sedentary time.