Barrier removal in increasing physical activity levels in obese African American women with disabilities

Rimmer JH, Hsieh K, Graham BC, Gerber BS, Gray-Stanley JA.  Department of Disability and Human Development, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60608-6904, USA.  J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2010 Oct;19(10):1869-76. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2010.1941.

BACKGROUND: This pilot study examined the effectiveness of a telephone-based intervention to increase physical activity in obese African American women with mobility disabilities by targeting the removal of barriers to participation.

METHODS: Severely obese (mean body mass index [BMI] = 49.1 kg.m²) African American women (n = 33) with mobility disabilities completed a 6-month telephone-based physical activity coaching intervention.

RESULTS: The major environmental/facility barriers at preintervention were cost of the program (66.7%), lack of transportation (48.5%), not aware of fitness center in the area (45.5%), and lack of accessible facilities (45.5%). The major personal barriers were pain (63.6%), don’t know how to exercise (45.5%), health concerns (39.4%), don’t know where to exercise (39.4%), and lack of energy (36.4%). Despite only two personal barriers being significantly lower at posttest (don’t know where to exercise and don’t know how to exercise) (p < 0.01), total exercise time increased from < 6 minutes/day to 27 minutes/day at posttest (p < 0.001), and total physical activity time (structured exercise, leisure, indoor and outdoor household activity) increased from 26 minutes/day to 89 minutes/day at posttest (p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: Interventions aimed at increasing physical activity participation among obese African American women with mobility disabilities should start with increasing their awareness/knowledge on where and how to exercise. Other reported barriers (e.g., cost, transportation, finding an accessible facility, health concerns, pain) may not be as critical to alter/remove as identifying where participants can exercise (i.e., home, outdoors, gym) and providing them with a variety of routines that can be performed safely in their desired setting.