Physical activity interventions in low-income, ethnic minority, and populations with disability.

Background: Low-income, racial and ethnic minority, and populations with disabilities are more likely to be sedentary than the general population. Increasing physical activity in these groups is an important public health challenge. This report summarizes interventions that have targeted populations at risk for inactivity.

Methods: Computer and manual searches were performed to identify manuscripts published from 1983 to 1997. Interventions conducted in these populations in which physical activity was part of the intervention, and activity or cardiorespiratory fitness were outcome measures, were included in the review.

Results: Fourteen studies were identified. Most studies used pre-post or quasi-experimental designs. Common intervention features for the ten studies that included ethnic minority groups were community advisory panels, community needs assessments, and community members delivering the intervention. Eight studies reported a theoretical framework that guided the intervention. Increased physical activity was documented in two studies. Post-intervention follow-up was conducted in two studies; both reported no significant findings. Only four studies for people with disabilities were found; all four reported post-intervention physical activity change.

Conclusion: Much work remains to develop effective interventions for these populations. Research that involves the community at all steps in the design and implementation of the intervention shows greatest promise for promoting behavior change. Future intervention studies should include: (1) rigorous experimental designs; (2) theoretically based interventions; and (3) validated assessment instruments to detect physical activity change.